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Tackling a ticklish topic

A leading continence nurse is heading to Asia to help advance treatment for the disabling condition.

Incontinence is often a tough topic to talk about but one of Australia’s leading nurses in this field has been talking about it for 30 years, and is now taking her knowledge and tips to Bali and China.

After decades of working as an advanced continence nurse specialist at Repatriation General Hospital in South Australia, Jan Paterson has decided to move to Bali where she can continue to make an impact.

She plans to assist in the development and setting up of a nurse-led clinic on incontinence, as well as running a periodic seminar focusing on incontinence and health for older people in Bali through co-operation with the Institute of Health Sciences in Bali (STIKES).

“I am hoping that the collaboration will increase the continence awareness and health for older persons for both professional health workers and consumers and health care ultilisation,” Paterson said.

She said she became aware of the limited treatment options for incontinence sufferers when she began working in the field in 1984 as a research assistant on a project that related to incontinence following a stroke.

“I found people who were incontinent were desperate to talk about what it meant to them from a social and loss of self perspective,” she said.

It was from this point that Paterson’s interest in the topic escalated.

She made a major breakthrough in continence when she established the first multidisciplinary continence service in South Australia at Repat General Hospital and the creation of a suite of continence courses for nurses at Flinders University, Adelaide.

These key advances led to the development of the nursing specialist role of a continence nurse adviser, drawing international and national attention.

The repat hospital where Paterson worked for 15 years has paid tribute to her work calling her a “true pioneer” in her field of expertise.

Paterson’s tips for nurses

* Raise the questions with patients, ask: “Do you experience incontinence?”
* If the answer is yes, identify and treat any causes, such as UTI, constipation, improve access to toilet time, provide a continence product
* Be sure to inform the patient that many people experience incontinence and that it can usually be cured, improved or better managed
* Ask them if they would like a referral to a health professional who specialises in continence
* Ask them if they would like the helpline number of the Continence Foundation of Australia, so they can have access to support and advice from the privacy of their home.

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