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Winifred Oluchukwu Eboh: Make sickle cell disease mandatory in pre-registration nurse education

One of the biggest challenges faced by people with sickle cell disease is the lack of awareness among health professionals. Pre-registration education would help ensure all nurses have a basic understanding of the condition at the point of qualification, says nursing lecturer Winifred Oluchukwu Eboh.
Sickle cell

One of the biggest challenges faced by people with sickle cell disease is the lack of awareness among health professionals. Pre-registration education would help ensure all nurses have a basic understanding of the condition at the point of qualification, says nursing lecturer Winifred Oluchukwu Eboh

Sickle cell disease is the most common serious genetic condition in England. According to the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), it is estimated that there are between 12,500 and 15,000 people with sickle cell disease in the UK.

One of the biggest challenges faced by people affected by SCD is the lack of awareness among health professionals, especially nurses who are at the forefront of care delivery and are often the first point of contact.

This was highlighted during a debate at RCN Congress 2016 by sickle cell and thalassaemia adult specialist nurse

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One of the biggest challenges faced by people with sickle cell disease is the lack of awareness among health professionals. Pre-registration education would help ensure all nurses have a basic understanding of the condition at the point of qualification, says nursing lecturer Winifred Oluchukwu Eboh


Picture: iStock

Sickle cell disease is the most common serious genetic condition in England. According to the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), it is estimated that there are between 12,500 and 15,000 people with sickle cell disease in the UK. 

One of the biggest challenges faced by people affected by SCD is the lack of awareness among health professionals, especially nurses who are at the forefront of care delivery and are often the first point of contact. 

This was highlighted during a debate at RCN Congress 2016 by sickle cell and thalassaemia adult specialist nurse Carey Johnson, who cited a 2015 survey carried out by charity Picker Institute Europe.

Of the 229 patients who responded to the survey – all of whom had had received urgent or emergency care in the previous six months – only 45% said they felt nurses had a good knowledge and understanding of the condition.

The greatest risk to patients admitted to hospital with sickle cell complications is lack of correct and timely treatment, especially if they present with one of many life-threatening complications, such as vaso-occlusive crises, sepsis, and splenic sequestration. 

If nurses seeing patients presenting with any of these symptoms lack awareness, the patient’s condition can deteriorate rapidly to the point where no medical intervention will help, resulting in death. 

Raising awareness

All nurses working in areas where there is a high prevalence of SCD must receive training in the care of this patient group, but what about patients with SCD living in low prevalence areas? If they encounter nurses with low awareness of their condition, what happens then? 

Making SCD mandatory and visible in pre-registration nurse education would help solve this problem. It would ensure all nurses have a basic understanding of the condition at the point of qualification, enabling them to better recognise sickle cell crises and initiate prompt treatment for patients presenting with severe life-threatening symptoms. 

As the Nursing and Midwifery Council consults on plans to overhaul nurse education in the UK, better education for SCD must be on the agenda.

The consultation closes on 12 September, click here to have your say. 


About the author

Winifred Oluchukwu Eboh is lecturer in adult nursing at the University of Essex 

 

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