Dr Amy Hunter shares her passion for incontinence research and the valuable support she has received being a member of Phi Mu Chapter.
Researching incontinence is a passion, but it’s not one everyone shares. This blog discusses the journey so far in taking on a taboo and how Phi Mu has been instrumental to this.
Undertaking research on a topic which might not be perceived as exciting by society or by health professionals comes with challenges. It’s something I learned early on in my PhD journey, when a representative of my funding body couldn’t understand why understanding more about attitudes to continence was fundamental to providing better care. From then on I knew I had to sell it, making it relevant and interesting to the people I engaged with. Ignoring stigma by pretending it didn’t exist only served to alienate my audience, so I had to be creative. Over the years I have had to present in ways that invited people to willingly engage with me. I took inspiration from what I imagine smartphone developers had to do in the early days, after all, a phone was for making calls, why should a phone need other properties? Similarly, continence care is more than dealing with symptoms, it requires (amongst other things) an understanding of the cultures we live in and the messages we are given from early childhood. Nurses are not immune to those influences, and so I have made it my mission to improve care by illuminating some of the tensions which exist for nurses, and for patients (women in particular) when talking about continence needs. Evidence suggests most people do not seek help for incontinence, but it is a symptom that can be improved for many with timely help. The days of just putting on a pad are numbered, but change is not without resistance. There have been times that I’ve felt quite lonely, but one way of overcoming that loneliness has been through my involvement with Phi Mu.
Phi Mu has given me a number of opportunities to present my work in the last few years. Most recently I won the Phi Mu Research Award 2019 which provided me support to present my work at the International Continence Society. Speaking to other people who want to see change regenerates me, but this year it also afforded me opportunity to work on a number of new projects which will continue the work that I began with my PhD.
My professional networks have been so important to getting my research out there, and Phi Mu has been a massive part of this. As well as supporting my research, being involved in the Chapter has also given me great professional development opportunities. Being a member of the Communications Committee, having opportunity to work with the Board, developing knowledge of webpage creation, using social media for professional purposes, have all given me transferrable skills that not only serve the Chapter, but also my research. The way to challenge a taboo is to have people by your side who support you in any way they can, and to support them in return.