The roles and responsibilities of WA general practice nurses in diabetes care and management
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The rising incidence of chronic diseases such as diabetes, associated comorbidities, an ageing population and rising health expenditure are all creating a greater burden on the Australian health care system.Purpose of the Study. The role of the practice nurse (PN) working within the general practice setting is expanding in response to health care demands and government policies, yet there is a lack of Australian research into how this role may impact upon the management of diabetes. This study explores current practice of PNs, their diabetes specific education, and driving and restraining forces that influence their involvement in diabetes management.Methodology. A cross sectional design with a postal survey, whereby 758 surveys were distributed to PNs via each of the 13 Western Australian Divisions of General practice, between October 2006 and May 2007. The final response rate was 16% (n = 118) with 118 surveys completed and returned. The Statistical Package for Social Sciences 15.0 was used for data entry and analysis.General Practice Setting. In the current study 85% (n = 94) of practices had a diabetes register, with 75% (n = 83) of PNs involved in operating this system. The PN has a defined role in contributing towards the development of chronic disease care plans and annual diabetes complication screening processes, services that are reimbursed through Medicare. However, current models of primary care delivery and funding appear to support the PN in this role as an adjunct to the general practitioner (GP), which may not permit full utilisation and recognition of the PNs’ professional scope of practice.The Role of the Practice Nurse. A statistically significant association was found between those PNs having completed diabetes related continuing education and the greater likelihood of providing education in insulin initiation, blood glucose monitoring, dietary advice, exercise and sick day education (p < .05). Whilst PNs in the current study displayed a high level of involvement in various areas of diabetes care, not all will be educationally prepared, yet may be undertaking what could be considered a more advanced practice role in diabetes self management education.Diabetes Knowledge Test. There was significantly higher scoring in the Diabetes Knowledge Test (DKT) where questions related to insulin therapy, amongst those PN’s with a role in providing education in self monitoring of diabetes (p = .036). Likewise, where the provision of dietary advice was part of the PN role, scoring was significantly higher in the DKT overall (p = .029). For those spending greater than two hours per week in diabetes related care, scores were significantly higher where questions examined principles surrounding management of blood glucose levels (p = .031). Practice nurses having undertaken a clinical audit related to diabetes care, scored significantly higher in the DKT overall (p = .037), particularly where those questions related to the complications associated with diabetes (p = .009).Barriers and Facilitators to PN Role in Diabetes Self Management Education. Practice nurses in the current study placed a significantly high level of importance on their role in patient teaching. However, time was found to be a significant barrier to this role (p < .05). The current study displays a high level of involvement by PNs in various areas of diabetes self management education and related clinical assessment, with a low level of involvement in diabetes specific continuing formal education. Whilst this facet of their role has more recently been acknowledged within general practice guidelines for diabetes management, the question remains as to the level of educational preparedness of the PN, to meet this expanding role.
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