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Give nurses training to spot acute illnesses on all skin types

Medical devices can be ineffective on some minority ethnic groups, so training is vital

Medical devices, such as pulse oximeters, can be ineffective on some minority ethnic groups says senior nurse lecturer

Nurses should be given regular training to ensure they can spot acute illness on all skin types amid concerns some medical devices are ineffective on people from minority ethnic backgrounds.

University of East London senior nurse lecturer Sheila Sobrany told Nursing Standard that a heavy reliance on medical devices risked nurses losing valuable skills.

Focus training on how illnesses present on black, Asian and minority ethnic groups

‘Nurses should be reliant on our basic nursing skills, as well as our advance nursing skills

Medical devices, such as pulse oximeters, can be ineffective on some minority ethnic groups says senior nurse lecturer

Research suggests that pulse oximeters can overestimate oxygen levels in the blood of people from minority ethnic backgrounds
Research suggests that pulse oximeters can overestimate oxygen levels in the blood of people from minority ethnic backgrounds Picture: iStock

Nurses should be given regular training to ensure they can spot acute illness on all skin types amid concerns some medical devices are ineffective on people from minority ethnic backgrounds.

University of East London senior nurse lecturer Sheila Sobrany told Nursing Standard that a heavy reliance on medical devices risked nurses losing valuable skills.

Focus training on how illnesses present on black, Asian and minority ethnic groups

‘Nurses should be reliant on our basic nursing skills, as well as our advance nursing skills and our critical skills and thinking. These skills can be lost because of our heavy reliance on equipment,’ she said.

Training should specifically focus on how some illnesses present on black, Asian and minority ethnic groups, Ms Sobrany added.

It comes as the government launched a review into the potential bias of medical devices on black, Asian and minority ethnic patients.

Research suggests that pulse oximeters, which are clipped on a patient’s finger to measure oxygen levels, can overestimate oxygen levels in the blood of people from minority ethnic backgrounds.

Government findings on bias in medical devices due in January

Ms Sobrany said nurses should able to asses a patient in full, including their oxygen levels, by looking at the colour of their skin.

‘It is so important to develop skills a bit more in relation to black, Asian and minority ethnic patients. Every patient is unique,’ she said.

‘A person’s complexion tells me how much oxygen is in their skin. Has it changed around their eyes or on their cheeks?’

The government is expected to hand down its findings on bias in medical devices in January 2022.

It aims to identify bias and risks that exist with approved devices, make recommendations on how these can be mitigated, and implement learnings to prevent bias in new devices.


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