How a Positive Attitude (and First-Hand Experience) Helps One WOC Nurse Face Each New Day

A Q&A with Coleen Potts, BSN, RN, CWOCN

For the past 15 of her 35 years with Cleveland Clinic, Coleen Potts, BSN, RN, CWOCN, has worked as a Wound, Ostomy, Continence (WOC) nurse.

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She’s part of a team that cares for patients from all over the world with abdominal stomas, wounds and incontinence conditions.

Consult QD sat down with Coleen to discuss her role, which not only includes educating patients and families pre- and postoperatively, but also training new WOC nursing students. 

Q: Can you tell us about a challenge you overcame?

A: My family has a strong history of inflammatory bowel disease. My mother has Crohn’s disease, and my sister and I both have ulcerative colitis.

Soon after my son, Sean, was born in 1987, I became very sick, very quickly. It was our own Ian Lavery, MD, who diagnosed me with severe ulcerative colitis. Less than two months after I delivered Sean, I needed surgery to remove my colon. This meant I needed an ileostomy. It turned out, having the ileostomy became a small price to pay for regaining my health.

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Q: How has this changed your outlook on life?

A: I developed a strong positive attitude in accepting and adjusting psychologically to life with an ileostomy. This led me to want to help others on their journey as they face the same challenges I endured. So I decided to become a WOC nurse and returned to school to earn my Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing. I then attended the R.B. Turnbull, Jr. MD, School of WOC Nursing. And here I am!

What is it like helping others with similar conditions?
Working with this patient population brings me personal satisfaction. I know I make a positive impact in their lives. There is no better job for me.

What is something interesting about you?
I was born at Cleveland Clinic … and haven’t left yet!

What do you value most that doesn’t cost money?
This is kind of a funny question for me because most anyone who knows me, knows I love bargain shopping and going to the casino — both which involve money. But I do love spending time with family and friends, which is priceless.

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What has been your favorite age and why?
Either when I was 26 and became a mother to Sean. Or when I was 53 — that’s when I traveled to Ireland with my husband, Jim. It truly was a dream vacation of a lifetime.