History of the World Council of Enterostomal Therapists® (WCET®)

The evolution of Enterostomal Therapy nursing is attributed to the visions of two very dedicated pioneers: Dr Rupert Turnbull, a colorectal surgeon at the Cleveland Clinic in the USA and Norma N. Gill, a former patient who had undergone stoma surgery. Both were visionary in their belief that there was a need for specialized nursing care for those individuals who had undergone ostomy surgery. Hence, Enterostomal Therapy was founded in the 1970’s.

June 26 is the WCET® Norma N. Gill Day®!

Founding of the WCET®

The WCET® was formally founded on May 18, 1978 when 30 Enterostomal Therapists, representing 15 countries and 20 industry representatives attended the first two-day congress held in Milan, Italy. This meeting was undertaken in conjunction with the International Ostomy Association (IOA). Norma N. Gill from the USA was the first WCET® President.

This first forum of Enterostomal Therapists represented a group of people from around the globe, some of whom were not nurses. They shared a passion for their field of work, dedication to the needs of people undergoing stoma surgery and a driving motivation to ensure continual improvement in a relatively new field of nursing. Because of the dedication of the initial WCET® members, global communication lines were established among Enterostomal Therapists locally, nationally and internationally. This desire for constant advancement continues today and is driving Enterostomal Therapy Nursing into the future.

The WCET® celebrated 40 years of advancement in Enterostomal Therapy Nursing in 2018 and is proud of the standards now offered in international Enterostomal Therapy Nursing care. The WCET® is committed to serving the needs of patients and health professionals and is focused on providing a global forum for international debate, discussion and ideas. The WCET® actively encourages members to contribute to the WCET® Journal, share Enterostomal Therapy Best Practice news and techniques and participate in the WCET® Congress.

Stelton, S. The WCET at 40. Advances in Skin & Wound CareApril 2018 - Volume 31 - Issue 4 - p 150–151

The History of Enterostomal Therapy (ET)

Enterostomal Therapy Nursing can source its origins to the United States in the late 1950's when the first Enterostomal Therapy educational program was initiated by Dr Rupert Turnbull and Norma N. Gill. Initially, education was directed to patients who had undergone ostomy surgery. It rapidly grew to include candidates from all over the world. In 1961 a formal ostomy rehabilitation education program was established and the term Enterostomal Therapist (ET) allocated to the graduates.

The 1970's saw the significance of Enterostomal Therapy as a nursing specialty recognized internationally and embraced by Australia, Canada, Great Britain, New Zealand and South Africa. Norma N. Gill aspired that health professionals interested in stoma care should unite into a worldwide association. In 1975 she initiated a movement to organize a formal group by contacting other international pioneers in stoma care. On 6 October 1976 eleven representatives met for the first time in the UK.

Enterostomal Therapists have always had close links with industry and a distinctive association in shared goal achievement. It is one of the few arenas where the opinions and needs of the professionals are actively sought out by the industry suppliers in a uniquely collaborative relationship. This has been true from the very inception of Enterostomal Therapy Nursing as demonstrated by the fact that a meeting with industry representatives took place on the same day. The need for open lines of communication between different countries and suppliers was apparent. It was felt that the representatives would be more familiar with such details as the effects of climate on equipment, the issues of international transport of supplies and import taxes levied by different countries.


Past WCET® Congresses

The first forum was held in Milan in 1978. At the time of the second conference, which was held in Düsseldorf in 1979, the WCET® membership had increased to over 130 members, representing 17 countries.

The third annual WCET® Congress was held in Cleveland, Ohio, USA in 1980. There were 300 delegates from 20 countries in attendance, prompting Norma N. Gill, our founder, to exclaim "thereʼs no stopping now”.

At the WCET® Congress held in Ljubljana, Slovenia in 2008, there were 1296 attendees from 47 countries.

To date the WCET® congresses have taken place in:

  • 1978 Milan, Italy
  • 1979 Düsseldorf, Germany
  • 1980 Cleveland, Ohio, USA
  • 1982 Munich, Germany
  • 1984 Transkei, Southern Africa
  • 1986 Perth, Australia
  • 1988 Gothenburg, Sweden
  • 1990 Toronto, Canada
  • 1992 Lyon, France
  • 1994 Yokohama, Japan
  • 1996 Jerusalem, Israel
  • 1998 Brighton, England
  • 2000 Singapore
  • 2002 Florence, Italy
  • 2004 Florianopolis, Brazil
  • 2006 Hong Kong, China
  • 2008 Ljubljana, Slovenia
  • 2010 Phoenix, Arizona, USA
  • 2012 Adelaide, Australia
  • 2014 Gothenburg, Sweden
  • 2016 Cape Town, South Africa
  • 2018 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia