Louise Walker (Great Comebacks Steering Committee); Julia Kittscha MACN, Bruce Moncrieff (Acting Vice President, General Manager, ConvaTec Australia).
Julia Kittscha MACN has dedicated her nursing career to improving the quality of care for ostomates. In September 2019 her exceptional contribution to the field was honoured with the ConvaTec Stomal Therapy Nurse Great Comebacks Award which acknowledges the pivotal role nurses play in supporting ostomates after surgery. We caught up with Julia to discuss the award and how she is actively changing the lives of patients through her nursing.
The road to becoming a Stomal Therapy Nurse Champion
The Great Comeback initiative encourages people who have had ostomy surgery or are living with a stoma to share their stories and, in doing so, inspire others who are facing the same challenges. The Stomal Therapy Nurse Great Comebacks Awards celebrates a nurse who has been instrumental in helping one of the recipients achieve their Great Comeback.
Julia was nominated for the award by Samantha Abarca, a nurse who works alongside her at Wollongong Hospital and was herself nominated for the Great Comebacks Award for her inspirational ostomate journey.
Below is a short extract from Samantha’s nomination recommending Julia for the award:
“Julia is a hardworking advocate for ostomates. She always has their best interests prioritised and enables them to live their life well, despite having a stoma. She is a leading professional in the domain of Stomal Therapy, conducting research studies, providing education sessions to other nurses in a variety of health care settings, she is an inspiring role model, motivator and mentor for nurses, encouraging and supporting the development of future Stomal Therapy nurses.”
Julia was honoured to be nominated by a close friend and colleague. “It is special to be nominated by a staff member, it means so much that it came from an ostomate and fellow nurse,” she says.
A lifetime of dedication to patient-centred stomal care
In her 20 years in the field, Julia has been a passionate advocate for incorporating the voice and needs of ostomates into their post-operative care.
Julia has a Masters in Nursing and has just started her PhD at the University of Wollongong, a mixed methods study which investigates the psychological adjustment after stoma formation over nine months. The study is the first looking at the experiences of stoma patients of an extended period post-surgery.
Understanding the experiences of patients living with stomas has been a key motivator behind her extensive research experience. “As a nurse, I wanted to know what it was like when a patient goes home after having stoma surgery. I wanted to understand their perspective and concerns to help them live a healthy life after a stoma,” she says.
On a clinical level, Julia is a pioneer for patient-centred support for ostomates. Along with another nurse, she facilitates group information sessions for patients living with stomas in the Illawarra Region.
“At these sessions, patients learn from other people living with stomas about how they can best help themselves. These sessions are patient-run and it is our job as nurses to help facilitate discussion,” she says.
The information sessions are just one example of the high level of connection and engagement she has with the local community. Her care of ostomates extends beyond the clinical level to developing friendships and personal relationships with her patients, pioneering community care models.
The role of nurses in Stomal Care
On the best way nurses can care for ostomates, Julia says, “It is essential that nurses ask and listen to the patient to incorporate their wants and needs. This will allow you to effectively develop relationships with those around you.”
She also singled out the Graduate Certificate in Stomal Therapy offered by the Australian College of Nursing (ACN) as an essential qualification for all nurses to improve their skills in this area.
“I would recommend the course to all nurses, even those who are not looking to pursue a career as a stomal therapy nurse. When patients often must travel hours for stoma services, it is important that their local nurse is educated about their needs,” she says.
We are honoured to have an exceptional nurse leader like Julia as part of the ACN Tribe. It is incredible achievements like hers that are the backbone of our profession!
If you or a nursing colleague have been recognised for your work in the nursing profession, we would love to hear from you! Please email your achievements to firstname.lastname@example.org for consideration.