This year, 2018, marks the 40th anniversary of the founding of the World Council of Enterostomal Therapists (WCET). The WCET is the international professional organization for nurses involved with ostomy, wound, and continence care. The WCET is a registered charity in the United Kingdom, and current members are located on every inhabited continent and in more than 60 countries. The WCET byline is “A World of Professional Nursing Care for Persons with Ostomy, Wound or Continence Needs.”
The WCET story followed the development of the enterostomal therapy (ET) specialty. In 1958, Cleveland Clinic Surgeon Rupert Turnbull recruited a former patient and successfully rehabilitated ostomate, Norma Gill, to work with his stoma patients.1 The new role that they created for Norma was called “ostomy technician.” Initially, she cared for Dr Turnbull’s patients exclusively, but soon the role expanded to include patients of other colorectal surgeons as well.
Dr Turnbull and Norma Gill soon realized that the principles of care that they were using would be helpful to other patients. They established the first ET training program at Cleveland Clinic in 1961. This same year, the term “enterostomal therapist” was coined. Program entry required that the students be an ostomate or the family member or caregiver for an ostomate. Later, students were required to be nurses.
In 1968, Norma Gill had already helped to establish the US professional organization that would later be called the Wound, Ostomy and Continence Nurses Society. Building on that success, Norma met with several international ET leaders in 1978 to form a global organization for enterostomal therapists.
The first WCET meeting and congress was held in Milan, Italy, and included enterostomal therapists from 32 countries.2 Full members included professional nurses who had attended an ET training program and “grandfathered” lay enterostomal therapists who had previously taken an ET training course.
The goals of this new organization were to (1) provide a corporate identity for those concerned with the rehabilitation of stoma patients, (2) enable members to meet to discuss matters of common interest, (3) create activities to help increase knowledge in ET nursing, and (4) promote increased awareness of the activities of the WCET. The WCET began to convene its biennial congresses in 1978.2
Education is a key focus for the WCET. It was Norma Gill’s dream to have every ostomate worldwide cared for by a nurse trained in ET. The Norma N. Gill Foundation was established in 1980 to help to fund global ET nursing education.2 The Foundation currently provides scholarships to accomplish its mission, including educational scholarships to help nurses attend ET Nursing Education Programs (ETNEPs) and membership scholarships so nurses can receive the WCET Journal.
The WCET has helped develop ETNEPs over the years, as well as several “twinning programs” whereby a country with well-established ET nursing assists a country to develop ET nursing. For example, in 2000 there were no ETNEPs in mainland China. A team of WCET Executive Board members and Hong Kong ET nurses went to China to teach the first ETNEP in 2001. In 2013, a team of nurses from the Australian Association of Stomatherapy Nurses began the first ETNEP in Nairobi, Kenya. There are currently 51 WCET-recognized ETNEPs and 5 WCET-recognized education programs in 21 countries.
Over the years, in the United States and other countries, the ET role has expanded to include wound and continence care. The WCET has also embraced these changes within its educational program content and congress presentation topics. Even though the WCET continues to use the historic name of ET, members do provide ostomy, wound, and continence care.
The WCET has benefitted immensely from the advancement of technology. Aside from a general online presence, in recent years, the WCET has offered several webinar presentations. In addition, WCET has published print materials such as the 2014 International Ostomy Guideline 3 and the Ostomy Pocket Guide 4 regarding stoma complications. Another publication in production is the Pocket Guide to Stoma Site Marking,5 to be released in April.
Initially, the WCET communicated with members through a newsletter called the Newsline. In 1980, this publication evolved to become the WCET Journal,2 which continues to be published quarterly in hard copy and is posted on the WCET website. The official language of the journal is English, but authors may also submit a copy of their article in their native language. Each issue contains a translated President’s Message and, if possible, at least 1 translated article.6 The journal has been repeatedly evaluated on membership surveys as the WCET’s “most important benefit.” Association news and country news are communicated in a quarterly newsletter called the BullETin.
Over the years, the WCET has undergone many changes, but remains a “World of Professional Nursing Care for People with Ostomy, Wound, or Continence Needs.”
1. Broadwell DC, Jackson BS, eds. Principles of Ostomy Care. St Louis, MO: CV Mosby; 1982.
2. Toth PE, Krasner D, eds. Enterostomal Therapy Nursing: Growth and Evolution of a Nursing Specialty Worldwide a Festschrift for Norma N. Gill-Thompson ET. Baltimore, MD: Halgo; 1996.
3. Zulkowski K, Ayello EA, Stelton S, eds. WCET International Ostomy Guideline. Perth, Australia: WCET; 2016.
4. Ayello EA, Stelton S, eds. WCET Ostomy Pocket Guide: Stoma and Peristomal Problem Solving. Perth, Australia: WCET; 2016.
5. Crawshaw A, Ayello EA, eds. WCET Pocket Guide to Stoma Site Selection. Perth, Australia: WCET; 2018.
6. Toth PE, Krasner DL, eds. Enterostomal Therapy Nursing: Growth and Evolution of a Nursing Specialty Worldwide a Festschrift for Norma N. Gill-Thompson ET. 2nd ed. Perth, Australia: Cambridge Publishing; 2012.