Members of the geriatric department at University Hospital Leicester pledged to wear a continence pad for the day. I wore the pad for eleven hours and along with the continence specialist nurses did 'use' it to know exactly howour patients feel. I found it uncomfortable to wear and difficult to use and felt an awareness of it all day.
Janet Browning and Sally Ryder, both specialist nurses at University Hospital Leicester, have summed up the experience: “As the Continence Nurse Specialists we are trying to get the ward nurses to think before using incontinence pads on patients, as inappropriate use can cause the patient to become incontinent, increase dependency and cause skin damage. Therefore we felt that the pledge to wear a pad was important not only to feel what wearing one felt like but also to have empathy for our patients.”
The pad we wore was designed to hold 400ml of urine. Even for us with good dexterity, good standing balance and full cognition, it was difficult to get on. We were conscious that we had it on, not only because it felt a little uncomfortable when sitting, but also because you felt that people could see the outline through your clothes.
We decided that to know for sure what having a pad on was like, that we would actually pass urine into it. Psychologically this was not easy and we decided to do this in a toilet ‘just in case’. Not knowing how much urine we had in our bladders we chose to only half empty our bladders into the pad. This did not feel right at all! Initially the pad felt wet but soon took the urine away from the skin and there were no leaks onto clothing but we felt conscious that everyone would be fully aware of what we had done.
The pledge gave some insight into what wearing a pad is like for our patients. But we only wore it for six hours; some of our patients are wearing them 24 hours a day, every day, sometimes with good cause but many times without.
We really hope people will realise how important an issue continence is, and give more thought to our patients who suffer with the symptoms. I hope more people will try this pledge out in the future.