Study results make a strong case for incontinence clinic
Hard data generated by research can make all the difference in persuading policy-makers to approve crucial programs and treatments.
Dr. Jane Schulz learned that from personal experience when she used her research stats to convince Alberta Health Services to fund a much-needed perineal care clinic at the Lois Hole Hospital for Women.
“We were able to go to AHS and say, ‘Look at these numbers. Twenty-seven per cent of women are suffering from significant bowel incontinence issues as a result of obstetrical injuries. There is no support for them now. We believe that an early intervention clinic would be very worthwhile,” says Schulz, who is the director of the urogynecology clinic at the LHHW.
Her team got their clinic, which is now part of the comprehensive, multi-disciplinary model of urogynecological care offered at the Lois Hole Hospital. The program—which includes urogynecologists, urologists, a colorectal surgeon, a family physician, nurse practitioners, nurse incontinence advisors, pelvic floor physiotherapists, a dietician, pharmacists and an exercise therapist—is unique in North America and the model has since been adopted elsewhere.
Research is integral to her clinical work and impacts every aspect of patient care, says Schulz. “Research drives our clinical care and improves the care that we provide our patients; research is relevant to everything we do,” she says.
Schulz joined the University of Alberta’s department of obstetrics and gynecology and the hospital in 1999. Since that time she has seen the number of patient visits to the clinic quadruple to 12,000 per year. The geographical area served by the clinic is huge, extending from Red Deer to the Northwest Territories and the Yukon, the northern and interior parts of B.C., and parts of Saskatchewan, as well as the Greater Edmonton Area. Schulz, who is known internationally as an urogynecologist and pelvic floor reconstructive surgeon, is determined to see advances continue in what has traditionally been a “neglected” field of women’s health. Urinary and bowel incontinence and pelvic floor disorders are still regarded with embarrassment. Patients to the Lois Hole clinic suffer silently with their condition for seven years on average before getting care, she notes.
Practical and plain spoken, Schulz explains what keeps her motivated during her 80+ hour weeks: “I get enormous satisfaction from seeing women return to normal lives—be able to play with their kids, exercise, go out for dinner and travel—after wearing 10 pads a day for years thinking there is nothing that can be done for them. That keeps me going.”
Schulz’s research has been funded by the generous support of the Lois Hole Hospital for Women, through WCHRI.