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Bowel Control Strategies Used by Veterans With Long-Standing Spinal Cord Injuries

Schmelzer, Marilee, PhD, RN1; Daniels, Glenda, PhD, RN, CNS, CGRN2; Baird, Becky, MS, RN-BC, CNE, CMSRN3

doi: 10.1097/rnj.0000000000000093

Study Purpose The aim of the study was to describe strategies used by veterans with spinal cord injury to achieve control over bowel function and fit their bowel programs into their lifestyles in the years following the initial injury.

Methods/Design Using a qualitative descriptive design, 18 outpatient veterans with spinal cord injuries were interviewed at a Veteran’s Administration hospital. Recorded interviews were transcribed verbatim and analyzed to determine major themes.

Findings/Conclusions Fourteen of 18 participants had gained control over bowel function and led active lives. They emphasized the importance of positive attitudes, listening to their bodies, being physically active, taking charge, and using trial and error to find the best bowel control strategies. Findings also highlighted the value of peer support and the problem of military service connected back injury leading to spinal cord injury.

Clinical Relevance Participants provided practical advice for adapting strategies learned during rehabilitation for long-term bowel control after discharge home.

1 The University of Texas at Arlington, Arlington, TX, USA, (Retired)

2 Harris College of Nursing & Health Sciences, Texas Christian University, Fort Worth, TX, USA

3 College of Nursing and Health Innovations, University of Texas at Arlington, Arlington, TX, USA;

Correspondence: Marilee Schmelzer, 622 Plumlee Place, Coppell, TX 75019, USA. E-mail:

While the research study was being conducted, Ms. Baird was an employee of the Veterans Affairs North Texas Health Care System–Dallas Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Dallas, TX.

The study was partially funded by the Society of Gastroenterology Nurses and Associates.

The authors declare no other conflicts of interest.

Cite this article as: Schmelzer, M., Daniels, G., & Baird, B. (2018). Bowel control strategies used by veterans with long-standing spinal cord injuries. Rehabilitation Nursing, 43(5), 245–254. doi: 10.1097/rnj.0000000000000093

© 2018 Association of Rehabilitation Nurses.
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