Experience of Nurses Caring for Patients With Neurogenic Bowel Dysfunction: A Qualitative Study

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Abstract

PURPOSE:

The purpose of this study was to explore the experience and perceptions of nurses providing bowel care to patients after spinal cord injury.

DESIGN:

Qualitative study using thematic analysis of semistructured interviews.

SUBJECTS AND SETTING:

Eleven RNs who provided bowel care to patients following spinal cord injury and were deemed competent to do so by their employer were invited to participate. The study setting was a large, London NHS Trust providing acute hospital care to a population of around 1 million people.

METHODS:

Semistructured interviews were digitally audio-recorded and transcribed verbatim. Analysis of data was undertaken using Braun and Clark's 6 stages of thematic analysis.

RESULTS:

Four main themes emerged: (1) unpleasantness of task; (2) perceived patient experience; (3) motivation and avoidance; and (4) barriers to care. There was stoic acceptance of the unpleasant nature of bowel care for the nurse, but unpleasantness for patients was not as readily acknowledged. Perceived patient experience ranged from descriptions of positive aspects of comfort and continence to negative aspects of embarrassment and discomfort. Nurses were motivated by the medical need for bowel care but often saw it as low priority due to the unpleasant nature and displayed avoidance tactics. The barriers concerned inadequate training, the taboo nature of bowel care, and potential sexual interpretations of care.

CONCLUSION:

Nurses described bowel care as unpleasant but accepted its physiologic need and importance. The standardization of bowel care training and increasing the numbers of nurses trained in bowel care may decrease stigma surrounding provision of care. Study findings suggest that male nurses' experience may differ from female nurses' experience, but this result requires further investigation.

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