Stomal nurses conference brings patients, nurses and doctors together

March 25, 2024

A recent conference brought together both stomal therapy nurses and those who have experienced ostomies – abdominal surgery to allow bodily waste to exit when a disease of the digestive or urinary system is present.

The two-day conference, “Innovation”, held by the college of stomal therapy nurses in Auckland earlier this month, was attended by 78 participants from across Aotearoa.


We were delighted a delegation of four from Australia, including chair of the Australian association of stomal therapy nurses Louise Walker,  also attended.

Participants came from all health-care sectors: Te Whatu Ora, private hospitals, rural hospitals, community settings and the tertiary sector.

Two stomates – those who have experienced ostomies – from the Ostomy Society also attended, and one patient shared their experience of being pregnant with a stoma (an abdominal opening).

Bringing together this specialised group of health-care workers and consumers into one room to network and share experiences and ideas was extremely productive.

Local iwi Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei’s Nick and Pandora Hawks opened the conference with a beautiful pōwhiri.

Māori cultural advisors whaea Lynda Toki and Kim Penetito, from consultancy Haua Partnership, then spoke about the importance of working in partnership with Māori, acknowledging our college’s commitment to this through our new guidelines. But they also reminded us that Māori are individuals, not just all in the same “box”.

Lynda Toki (left) and Kim Penetito of Haua Partnerships.

They also spoke about the importance of growing rangitiratanga (leadership) and manaakitanga (care for others) as well as the need to push for equity and reduce barriers in stomal therapy nursing.

Former boxer David Letele was an absolute highlight, in a kōrero about overcoming challenges in his upbringing and personal life, including obesity.  His message was: Never give up, always get back up, change can happen and how important it is to look after your health.

Dave Letele

While people do not choose what situation they’re born into, they can make changes, Letele said. But it was also important to recognise inequalities in our society and the need for healthy partnerships to support those who have experienced disadvantage and ensure the best opportunities for all.

Health workers had a crucial role in advocacy for people with limited choices, he said.

With our conference on the same day as the funeral of his late friend, Green Party MP Efeso Collins, we acknowledge his commitment in going ahead with his talk.

Other speakers included colorectal specialists and stomal therapy nurses and educators, with a range of workshops run by stomal nurse specialists on stoma dilation, colostomy irrigation, chait management and chyme reinfusion.

There was a vibrant atmosphere and the committee received positive feedback from attendees. To show our appreciation for all speakers and contributors, the college committee donated 19 native trees in their name to Trees That Count, which works to create shared green spaces.

The college also farewelled chair Emma Ludlow. A new chair is expected to be announced soon.

Our recently developed clinical guidelines are here, and should be read in conjunction with our knowledge and skills framework here.

Stomal  nursing conference attendees.

— This article was adapted from an article published in college of stomal nurses journal The Outlet by co-editors Marie Buchanan and Preeti Charan.