Page last updated at 10:03 GMT, Wednesday, 10 September 2008 11:03 UK

Inside Medicine: Sexual dysfunction nurse

Anne Storey
'Being a good listener is key'
In a series focusing on medical specialties, the BBC News website meets sexual dysfunction and urology nurse Anne Storey.

Her speciality is treating patients with problems of the urinary tract, bladder, kidneys, urethra and reproductive systems.

WHAT IS YOUR JOB?

I work as a urology nurse at the Leeds Teaching Hospital, working in a clinic providing care for men with sexual dysfunction and urinary problems.

They are very different issues, even though they focus on the same area of the body. And I have to approach my patients - and their care - in very different ways.

I need to know if a patient gets extremely nervous, or whether they've been widowed, or if there's something else bothering them.
Anne Storey

Both groups get a blood test, and their medical history is taken down.

Care for urinary patients then tends to focus on physical tests, such as a flow rate - a measure of how much urine they can expel.

But for a sexual dysfunction patient, a social history is really important.

I need to know if a patient gets extremely nervous, or whether they have been widowed, or if there is something else bothering them.

You have to cut through the stigma and the embarrassment of erectile dysfunction, as well. Plenty of men are reluctant to seek help because they just don't want to talk about it.

So being able to relate to your patients, to draw them out, and being a good listener is part of being a good urology nurse.

WHAT IS THE MOST COMMON CONDITION?

I see far more people for erectile dysfunction than for urinary problems.

The numbers are absolutely massive - only 20% of the people with problems report them, and it's believed there are about four to five million men with the condition in the UK.

WHAT IS THE MOST COMMON PROCEDURE?

Patients with erectile dysfunction generally know what's wrong with them. They are looking for help in rectifying the problem.

So that is where my diagnostic skills come in.

The problem, physically, is quite simple. They are unable to get - or maintain - an erection of sufficient hardness for intercourse.

But the reasons behind the problem can be complex.

So we do blood tests, checking blood glucose levels, as well as looking at blood pressure.

Both those tests can tell us if the man has high blood pressure or diabetes, both of which can affect his ability to get an erection.

Some men also have testosterone problems, which need sorting out.

For some men, treatment might call for an erectile dysfunction drug, like Cialis, Viagra or Levitra. We try to find out which one is right for men, as they're not all the same.

For other men, it might mean other drugs or treatments.

WHAT IS THE HARDEST THING ABOUT YOUR JOB?

The hardest thing about my job is telling some men that they cannot get erectile dysfunction drugs on the NHS.

The drugs are available in a limited number of applications - if a man has had prostate cancer, or prostate surgery, or diabetes or a spinal injury - but men with vascular disease, for example, have to pay.

WHAT IS YOUR MOST SATISFYING CASE?

When I see a couple come in to the clinic, feeling closer than they have in years and saying that the treatment has transformed their relationship, that's extremely satisfying.

We aren't just treating the men, after all.

Sexual dysfunction can take a real toll on a couple's private life. Women worry that their partner no longer fancies them or are being unfaithful; the men feel isolated, lonely, and that their confidence has gone.

WHY DID YOU CHOOSE THIS SPECIALITY?

The more I learned about the speciality, the more interested I became, and that led to my application for the role of a urology nurse specialist.

IF YOU HAD YOUR TIME AGAIN WOULD YOU CHANGE YOUR SPECIALTY?

No. It has a combination of medical and surgical conditions which are fascinating.

WHICH SPECIALTY WOULD YOU HAVE GONE INTO IF NOT YOUR OWN?

I'd be interested in working in the field of diabetes.

I probably would have gone down that road if I hadn't ended up in urology.

HOW DO YOU SEE THE ROLE DEVELOPING IN THE FUTURE?

I think there will be more of us, and I think we'll be working across all different specialities, like diabetes.

Right now, erectile dysfunction nurses tend to be more urology-based.

But recently, I had a nurse who works in multiple sclerosis sit in on my clinics as a learning experience, because she has a lot of patients suffering from erectile dysfunction.

And there will also be more of us when erectile dysfunction becomes more accepted as a medical condition.

It's extremely distressing for men who are unable to obtain or maintain an erection. A lot of men with the condition feel emasculated, which really has an impact on their daily lives.

And right now, a lot of people only talk about sex as a quality-of-life issue.

But it's more than that. It's a part of who we are and sex is something we all want to do. People want to feel loved, to be confident - it's essential to a person's well-being.

CV - Anne Storey
February 1985: Qualified as an enrolled nurse at St. James' School of Nursing, Leeds
April 1994: Converted to a registered nurse at Leeds University
June 1996: Presented to the British Association of Urology Nurses annual conference for the first time; Spoke on nurses' ability to detect the possibility of prostate cancer compared to doctors'
February 2004: Became chair of andrology section of British Association of Urology Nurses




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