Perspective Online

Breaking the Mold

by Taylor Bryant

Nurses change lives, plain and simple. And University of West Georgia alumna and nurse Jamie Parker ’15 is no different. She has known that nursing was her calling since she was 15 years old, waiting on her mother to come out of open-heart surgery. Today, Parker works in the Advanced Wound Healing Center at Cartersville Medical Center and is living out more than her childhood dream. Not only is she changing the lives of her patients, but she’s also changing the lives of nurses.

Breaking the MoldIt started with research Parker conducted for her final project before graduating with her master’s degree in nursing from the Tanner Health System School of Nursing. With 11 years of experience as a nurse, Parker often noticed that hospital nurses were quite hesitant to take care of ostomy patients. Intrigued by this apprehension, Parker began researching the self-confidence of nurses while doing ostomy education or performing ostomy care on a patient. “I noticed nurses were either calling me often, or the patient would say, ‘That poor nurse didn’t know what to do,’” she said. “That’s when I began to put two and two together and realized that they need more education.”

Already working as a wound, ostomy, and continence nurse (WOCN), Parker knew the challenges of caring for ostomy patients. Ostomy patients have surgically created openings known as stomas, which allow waste to exit their bodies safely. For some patients, ostomy care is only needed for three to six months; for others, it could be a lifetime.

“You can imagine as a patient looking at this pouch thinking what has happened,” she said. “Sometimes it’s traumatic. Sometimes it’s a car wreck where the steering wheel hits their belly and they have had to take part of their bowel.” Whether short- or long-term, if not done properly, it can quickly affect the patient’s quality of life. Knowing that, Parker wanted to ensure that her patients are educated when they go home and that the nurses can continue that education once she leaves the room.

“A WOCN is a specialized nurse, so that’s a totally different certification,” said Parker. “Your standard or generic registered nurse programs don’t receive a lot of ostomy education. You are not guaranteed to have an ostomy patient in a hospital, so you may not see it at all. They mention it in their nursing books, but it’s not guaranteed in clinical time…. I’m only in the room for maybe an hour and after I leave, I want the other nurse to have the knowledge to answer any more questions.”

With an idea and a trip to the local Hobby Lobby, Parker did just that. Using Play-Doh, silicone, and liquid rubber latex, she made her own ostomy mold – a product that typically runs anywhere from $250 to $2,500 – for only $50. With Parker’s molds, patients and nurses get hands-on education of the actual process, so when a patient is faced with a stoma, both the nurses and patients are confident.

Impressed with Parker’s research and models, Dr. Joan Carlisle, UWG associate professor for the Tanner Health System School of Nursing, encouraged her to submit her research to the 2015 Southeast Region Wound, Ostomy, and Continence Nurses Society Conference. “When Jamie told me about making her own ostomy models and showed me the ones she used in her teaching project, I was very impressed with her creativity in taking everyday items and using them to make effective teaching aids,” shared Carlisle. “I immediately knew that she should submit abstracts for presentations so she could share her project with other nurses who experience the same challenges.”

“I was nervous,” recalled Parker. “Having to hang my poster up next to posters from Emory, Duke, and Johns Hopkins. I thought for sure they were going to laugh at mine.” The response of her colleagues was just the opposite. Parker received requests for nearly 15 orders for the molds that day and several phone calls from her colleagues needing guidance in making their own.

Even with rave responses, Parker was shocked when she not only won first place in the research competition for her molds, but was also named the 2015 SER WOCN Nurse of the Year and awarded a $1,200 scholarship.

“I get on the website from time to time to see if it’s still there,” she said. “I’m looking around that room at a WOCN nurse who has been doing this for 20 plus years and had been diagnosed with cancer, getting treatment, still seeing patients. And another gentleman who’s been doing this forever and had open-heart surgery, and they’re handing me this award? That’s the beauty of receiving an award, I guess. I’m humbled.”

Parker says she’s beyond grateful to her professor and mentor Dr. Carlisle for supporting her. “To be honest, I don’t know what I would have done without her,” said Parker. “She mentored me through the entire process and insisted that I do a poster. That’s what is so great about UWG. The nursing program really wants their master’s level nurses to understand research and how to share what you have researched and learned to make other nurses better.”

And Parker plans to continue doing exactly that. She has tons of unpublished research, and after using her ostomy molds hundreds of times, she’s now considering creating a cost-effective wound model next. Whether its research or molds, Parker knows for sure that she has to continue being brave and fearless if she wants to continue getting better.

“Be courageous,” she concluded. “You have to eventually believe in yourself enough to make a change. You just have to believe enough to show it. As long as you are courageous and stay humble, then you cannot go wrong.


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Posted: June 9, 2016

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