How Well Do Student Nurses Understand Urinary Incontinence?

How Well Do Student Nurses Understand Urinary Incontinence?

Especially The Psycho-social Impact Urinary Incontinence Has On Patients

While urinary incontinence (UI) affects people of all ages, the chance of having UI significantly increases as people age. With the aging population of the United States, it is projected that incontinence will be as big a concern as heart disease by 20251. This expected growth of UI as a health issue, along with the growing importance of bringing student nurses into the profession, makes it essential that they understand not only the causes, but also the emotional and physical impact of UI on patients.

This article reviews a study that explored the beliefs and attitudes towards UI of both traditional-aged student nurses and non-traditional students. Traditional-aged students ranged from age 18 to 25 and made up 58% of the group. Non-traditional students ranged in age from 26 to 50 for the remaining 42%.2

Coming from two universities, all the students were in their junior or senior year of study “to ensure previous exposure to basic fundamental incontinence education, and participation in two adult and older adult clinical experiences.” 2 The students were given the Attitude and Belief subscales of the Urinary Incontinence Scales3 through their online learning portals.

Overall: “The findings of this study suggest student nurses may not be aware of the negative impact incontinence has on the psychosocial aspects of the patient, and therefore, may not be as inclined to initiate interventions due to a diminished awareness of the problem.” 2


Regarding student nurses’ attitude scores toward caring for patients with UI, the cumulative findings show a positive attitude for both types of students. “Students identified strongly with the perspective that nurses should be knowledgeable, approachable, and caring when dealing with incontinent patients.”2 One difference worth noting is that the non-traditional students averaged a more positive attitude score, possibly due to their better understanding of the consequences of UI.


The cumulative belief scores were similar for both types of students, yet the scores were more moderate to neutral – “demonstrating a lack of understanding regarding the negative psychosocial effects of UI.” 2 The author feels this is consistent with the general public opinion that UI is part of the aging process. This belief may help explain the reduced understanding of the negative psychosocial effects of UI.

Although UI may be connected to aging, it can be debilitating and embarrassing at any age. This study offers good insight into how student nurses perceive incontinent patients’ feelings and concerns. It also emphasizes the challenge to nurse educators in designing curricula that not only improve UI management but also help student nurses understand its consequences.

1 Newman, D. et al. (2009). Continence promotion, education, and primary prevention. In P. Abrams, L. Cardozo, S. Khoury, & A. Wein (Eds.), Incontinence: 4th International Consultation on Incontinence, Paris July 5-8th, 2008 (pp.1643- 1684). Retrieved from

2 Hutchings, J and Sutherland, L. (2014). Student nurse understanding of the psychosocial impact of urinary incontinence. Urologic Nursing. 34(6) 318-325.

3 Henderson, J. and Kashka, M. (1999) Development and testing of the urinary incontinence scales. Urologic Nursing. 19(2) 109-119.

Our Free Brochure Helps Patients Understand and Deal with Incontinence

Urinary Incontinence: Laymen's Guide to Incontinence Brochure

Incontinence can be a troubling subject for patients to grasp. You can help put their mind at ease with this free brochure from HDIS. “A Layman’s Guide to Incontinence” provides a fundamental overview of the condition to help your patient deal with the problem.

In a positive, reassuring way, this free brochure reviews:

  • The urinary process
  • Causes and types of incontinence
  • Products available for protection

Click here to order your free supply today.

Photo: Navy Lt. Cmdr. David Griffin (left), a urologist at Naval Hospital Pensacola, discusses a treatment plan with a patient in the Urology Clinic. (U.S. Navy photo by Jason Bortz –