Incontinence affects one in four Australians, and is the reason why many people end up in nursing homes – but specialist training to care for those who must live with it is becoming scarce.
In fact, the last bastion of education is Perth’s Hollywood Private Hospital, which runs the country’s only Continence Nurse Specialist Course.
Now in its 30th year, it is being co-ordinated by 79-year-old Lesley Pitman, who has been a nurse for six decades.
Continence is the ability to control your bladder and bowel, while incontinence is the accidental or involuntary loss of urine or faeces.
“It affects all different types of people, from small children to the elderly,” Ms Pitman said.
“Many people end up in nursing homes because they are incontinent.”
The course provides 14 nurses from Western Australia and interstate with theory and clinical placement to help people living with the condition.
“We are the only remaining provider of such a course in Australia,” said Anne Green, the hospital’s Training and Development Manager.
“Without this contribution to the health community there would be a devastating gap for people who live with incontinence, or struggle without knowing what options are available.
“The course meets an important need for the future development of nurses. It deepens and broadens attitudes, skills and knowledge of this significant health issue.”
Mrs Green said storytelling was a key part of the course, and assisted with learning.
“With 60 years’ nursing experience, Lesley has lots of stories to share with course candidates,” Mrs Green said.
“Clients also attend the course to share their lived experiences of their journey or their life living with continence issues.”
The four-week course features 40 guest speakers from a variety of specialisations such as urology, microbiology, gynaecology and sexual health, including leading surgeons, paediatricians, nurse practitioners and physiotherapists.
It usually attracts international nurses, but this has not been possible since the COVID-19 pandemic.
It is an accredited course with endorsement by the Australian College of Nursing and the Continence Nurses Society of Australia (CONSA).