Psychological coping with intermittent self-catheterisation (ISC) in people with spinal injury: A qualitative study

Christine Shaw, Karen Logan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Management of bladder function is important in rehabilitation of spinal injury. Failure to comply with bladder management techniques, such as intermittent catheterisation, can have long-term consequences leading to renal failure. It is important,therefore, that spinal injured people adapt to the therapy at an early stage, but there is little research aimed at exploring patient experiences of ISC.

Objectives: This study explores the experiences of patients who have a spinal cord injury and who carry out ISC in order to identify psychological coping factors that might affect therapy adherence.Design: A qualitative study using a Grounded Theory framework involving individual interviews. Setting and participants: There were 15 participants (11 men and 4 women), median age 52 years (range 24-68) who were discharged from spinal rehabilitation, living in the community and using ISC. The sample was recruited from the patient lists of a tertiary spinal injury unit and a Specialist Continence Service.Methods: In-depth interviews were carried out in participants' own homes by a trained interviewer. Interviews were audio-recorded, transcribed and analysis carried out using NUD*IST6 software.Results: A core category of 'normalisation' was identified and the causes and consequences related to this category are reported. Categories of 'independence' and 'control' were closely related to, and were interdependent with, 'normalisation'. Participants were relieved of worry when they could exert control over their bladder function, and a feeling of normalisation helped them to maintain the integrity of their self-image. The ultimate outcome was either adaptation or maladaptation. Adaptation was dependent on positive acceptance of intermittent catheterisation and the need for good bladder management at the outset, whereas maladaptation was a result of avoidance and denial.Conclusions: Adherence to ISC is related to early psychological coping strategies of active acceptance rather than denial and avoidance in relation to bladder management. It is important to support positive appraisals of ISC, particularly from the patient perspective,which suggest that it is the first step to independence and that it also provides normalisation and control of bladder function. ISC can contribute to a good quality of life,dignity, privacy and self-esteem. 2013 Published by Elsevier Ltd.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1341 - 1350
Number of pages9
JournalInternational Journal of Nursing Studies
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2013


  • adaptation
  • psychological
  • intermittent urethral catheterisation
  • patient adherence
  • qualitative research
  • self-care


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