Having a lack of control over when you can go to the toilet is more common than you might think - an estimated 6.5 million people across the UK have a problem staying continent from their bladder or bowel. The real number of sufferers may be even higher because most prefer not to admit they have a problem.
A lot of it is about having the right approach and trying to make it easier for people to speak about it. People assume that there is nothing that can be done but 70-80 per cent of patients with a bladder or bowel incontinence can be treated and cured. The earlier someone seeks treatment the better. Although people tend to assume continence is just a problem for older people, our service is for everyone – adults and children. It is very common – affecting more people than asthma, diabetes and epilepsy put together.
What like about my job is that every day is different. Some of the phone calls received are from staff asking such questions as 'what was the name of that catheter that helps combat infection' to very personal ones about patient care.
The job is very rewarding as the problem of bladder/bowel dysfunction is one of extreme embarrassment and as we have an 'open referral' to our service, patients are so pleased when they get a friendly voice on the other end of a phone line or see a friendly face at our clinics. They are able to share their concerns with someone who listens and tries to improve their situation This I know is not unique to our service but it does give me and my colleague a lot of job satisfaction.
Another part of my role is teaching and I do believe in sharing knowledge. I spoke to 70 student nurses the other day at Greenwich University and so many of them came over afterwards and said they enjoyed the training and did not realise there was so much to incontinence problems...A few budding continence advisers for the future there I hoped!
Working for the PCT means to me an opportunity to learn something new every day - especially with all the recent changes within the NHS/PCT. This to me is both challenging and enjoyable. The PCT allows me to be autonomous with running my service and encourages me to have a say with its future. Although I live nowhere near Greenwich, I feel a part of it.
I signed my contract in August 2006! I have been a continence adviser elsewhere and set up services in the past. I have taught at Universities for as long as i can remember and enjoy putting on the courses within the PCT. I am also studying to complete my 'Masters' degree which I must admit seems to have been going on forever but this has enhanced my knowledge which I hope has influenced my practice. I look forward to continuing working within the PCT and being a part of its new future.