On June 23, alumni of the Wound Care Education Institute (WCEI) cheered to see a dedicated clinician, teacher and nursing entrepreneur receive recognition for her commitment to ostomy care and education.

The United Ostomy Association of America named WCEI Clinical Instructor Joy Hooper, RN, BSN, CWOCN, OMS, WCC, its WOC Nurse of the Year.

The prestigious award shines a spotlight on the many ways Hooper has touched lives with her commitment to teaching ostomy care.

“My father has always taught us the importance of helping people, and one of the most important people to help is the one you’re not expecting a thank you from or expecting anybody to know about,” Hooper said. “That is someone who you want to help. You won’t see this immediate reward, but you will be rewarded. UOAA and helping people have always been close to my heart.”

ostomy careHooper was surprised by the high-profile honor. “I was so tickled to be nominated; it is truly an honor,” she said. “I’m thrilled to have won this award.”

For more than a decade, she has counseled residents of rural southern Georgia about stoma care, filling a need for additional postoperative support in the area.

She provides ostomy care information and supplies free of charge from her private nonprofit ostomy education clinic.

Inventing an ostomy care teaching tool

WOC nurse

Joy Hooper, RN, BSN, CWOCN, OMS

In addition to changing lives quietly in her home state, Hooper takes a more public role as an entrepreneur and inventor.  She created the Anatomical Apron by Joy, a teaching tool for visualizing what occurs inside and outside of the abdomen after ostomy surgery.

The apron is now used in clinical and non-clinical settings worldwide. However, as with the nonprofit clinic, the Anatomical Apron grew out of a local need she identified early in her career at an acute care facility that served a rural community.

It’s difficult trying to explain to a farmer he needs to use special products when he thinks that he can use just a regular pouch and stick it on his skin, Hooper said.

Some people need extra accessory products and trying to get people to buy those out of their own pocket when they don’t have insurance coverage can be very challenging. Hooper said she learned she had to explain why.

Hooper wanted a tool that could show how the GI tract functioned before, during and after ostomy surgery. “Education changes everything when it comes to pouching skills,” she said.

Finding nothing on the market that fulfilled her requirements, she decided to design, create, patent and distribute the Anatomical Aprons herself. In recent years, she has hired local Mennonite women to sew the product in small batches.

Hooper demonstrates the apron through videos on YouTube, which have garnered nearly 500,000 views from across the globe.

The videos serve as her primary means of marketing the product, but they also provide ostomy care education for clinicians and ostomates who want to learn more about the surgery.

“It’s a win-win,” she said. “My focus has always been on teaching as many people as I can rather than selling as many aprons as I can.”

Educating new ostomy nurses

Today, Hooper teaches the Ostomy Management Specialist Course and Skin and Wound Management Course at WCEI.

Our students rave about Hooper’s instruction. “Joy Hooper taught the class and was so animated with her passion. We are so excited to carry on what we learned,” Elizabeth Garrison, RN, WCC, OMS, said in an online review.

Hooper said she models her teaching style after her original WOC nursing instructor, Dorothy Doughty, MN, RN, CWOCN, FNP, FAAN, of Emory University.

“She was the first person I ever met who thought the same way I did, that ostomy was a very interesting field of healthcare,” Hooper recalled. “In class, Dorothy was just talking to you, like in a conversation. That’s what I try to do.”

Many of Hooper’s students stay in touch with her, sending excited messages about the difference they make in patients’ lives. She loves hearing about these successes and understands the thrill of practicing ostomy care.

There’s no price tag you can put on the education to make somebody independent and able to care for themselves after they’ve gone through ostomy surgery, Hooper said, or finding that right pouch that’s going to give them the ability to stand up in front of their colleagues and do their work to earn a living. It’s life-changing.

Increasing the number of clinicians who serve ostomy patients is a key goal for Hooper, so she seeks to raise the visibility of the ostomy nursing certifications and career paths.

“I want to help people find their passion and be passionate about it, and if that happens to be ostomy management, that is wonderful,” Hooper said.

Take one of Hooper’s courses:

Keisha Smith, MA, CWCMS

Keisha Smith, MA, CWCMS, is a freelance digital marketing consultant who works with clients in healthcare, law and behavioral health. Her specialties include content creation, social media and brand clarity. As an eight-time Wild On Wounds conference staff member and an alumna of WCEI's training program for wound care marketing professionals, she loves the exceptional passion of clinicians who treat wounds. She frequently finds herself advising friends and family to keep their minor wounds warm and moist.

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