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Evaluating the context within which continence care is provided in rehabilitation units for older people


  • Jayne Wright,

  • Brendan McCormack,

  • Alice Coffey,

  • Geraldine McCarthy

Jayne Wright
Nursing Development Centre
3rd Floor, Bostock House
Royal Hospital
University of Ulster
Belfast BT12 6BA
Telephone: 01865 763816


Aim.  This paper presents the first phase of an all Ireland 2-year study between the University of Ulster and University College Cork, to determine the contextual indicators that enable or hinder person centred continence care and management in rehabilitation settings for older people. The primary outcome of the study was the development of a tool to enable practitioners to assess the practice context within which continence care is provided. The main focus of this paper is the value of understanding practice ‘context’ (culture, leadership and evaluation) and its impact to the provision of person centred continence care.

Background.  The literature highlights the effect of continence problems on the quality of life of older people. Incontinence is often seen by health care professionals and older people as an inevitable consequence of ageing and difficult to treat. Furthermore, health care professionals do not always have the necessary skills and knowledge of best practice in continence care and treatments. The Promoting Action on Research Implementation in Health Services (PARIHS) framework utilized in the study proposes that successful implementation of evidence in practice is dependent on the inter-relationship of three key elements; the nature of the evidence, the quality of the context and expert facilitation. Kitson et al. propose that for successful implementation, evidence needs to be robust, the context receptive to change and appropriate facilitation is needed. Consequently understanding practice ‘context’ and its impact on the provision of person centred continence care is of value.

Methods.  Case study methodology with several data collection methods was utilized to measure all aspects of ‘context’ as identified by the PARIHS framework. Methods include: Royal College of Physicians Audit Scheme, Staff Knowledge questionnaire, semi-structured observation of practice and multidisciplinary focus groups.

Findings.  The data were analysed in two stages. Stage 1 using both qualitative and quantitative (SPSS 12) methods. Stage 2 analysed all the data utilizing the characteristics of context from the PARIHS framework in order to identify the strong and weak characteristics of the context within which continence care was provided. Continence care and management in this study was found to be focused on continence containment rather than proactive management. The evidence suggests that the context (leadership, culture and evaluation) was weak and not conducive to person centred continence care and management.

Conclusion.  An analysis of the data using the context framework provided a picture of the context within the units and the identification of the specific contextual issues hindering and enabling the delivery of person centred continence care. This process has thus, added to our understanding of the importance of context to the provision of person-centred care.