Nursing studies

Learning to monitor blood glucose – a helping hand to safe and confident practice

Nursing students can practise taking blood samples with simulation device invented by a nurse

Coventry University clinical skills educator was inspired to develop the GlucoHand to replace sponges in simulation exercises

When assistant professor Nina Godson watched students practising taking a blood sample using a sponge, she knew she wanted to make their learning experience more life-like.

There wasnt a piece of equipment that represents reality for students to help them develop their blood glucose monitoring skills, says Ms Godson, who joined Coventry University 20 years ago and is now clinical skills lead in the faculty of health and life sciences. We used to use sponges, but it was never really good enough.

Finger pricks and testing sticks

Her solution was

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Coventry University clinical skills educator was inspired to develop the GlucoHand to replace sponges in simulation exercises

Nurse innovator Nina Godson (left) with colleague Rachel Cooper, demonstrate the glucometer hand device

When assistant professor Nina Godson watched students practising taking a blood sample using a sponge, she knew she wanted to make their learning experience more life-like.

‘There wasn’t a piece of equipment that represents reality for students to help them develop their blood glucose monitoring skills,’ says Ms Godson, who joined Coventry University 20 years ago and is now clinical skills lead in the faculty of health and life sciences. ‘We used to use sponges, but it was never really good enough.’

Finger pricks and testing sticks

Her solution was to invent an anatomical model of a hand, complete with mock blood in two refillable fingertip blood pads. When they are pricked, fluid is transferred to a testing stick before being inserted into a simulated monitor for a reading. Students interpret the results and plan their next steps.

‘Nurses need to get this right. It’s especially vital they are exposed to different blood sugar levels so they learn how to act accordingly’

‘If a similar situation arises once they’re out in clinical practice, they will be able to look back on what they did during these sessions,’ says Ms Godson. ‘Nursing students need to be able to have a safe rehearsal before they carry out these procedures on patients. They want to feel they’re not doing any harm. This gives them both confidence and expertise.’

A potentially life-saving skill that is important to perfect

The GlucoHand

The rise in diabetes cases makes it doubly important to get these skills perfected, she believes. ‘Prompt treatment can save a patient’s life,’ says Ms Godson. ‘Wherever nurses are working, they are likely to come across patients with diabetes, including in GP surgeries, emergency departments and on medical wards.

‘They need to get this right,’ she adds. ‘It’s especially vital they are exposed to different blood sugar levels so they learn how to act accordingly, understanding whether a patient is deteriorating or not.’

From concept to prototype and marketable medical simulation device

Taking six years to finalise from her original concept, the GlucoHand is now being produced by Adam, Rouilly, a well-established medical simulation manufacturer. Among the challenges has been getting the hand to look as realistic as possible.

‘The skin needed to look like skin,’ says Ms Godson. This includes reflecting diversity in skin tones and the ability to rotate into different positions. ‘From the beginning, we knew it had to look like a human hand,’ she says.

‘As a healthcare professional, I feel I’ve really done something good for students’ learning. It’s exciting to see them using it’

They are hoping to create a teenage hand in the future. ‘It will be a bit funkier, perhaps with a bracelet or a ring,’ she says. ‘Diabetes is across a spectrum and it affects younger people too.’

Nina Godson

A keen inventor, Ms Godson is working on other initiatives too, including a hologram of a patient and a language aid to help nurses communicate with patients who do not speak English. ‘I keep a notebook by the side of my bed to jot down any ideas I have in the middle of the night,’ she says.

Innovation and problem-solving

A major stumbling block for the hand model involved the mock blood, which originally had different amounts of sugar added so it could give the range of results they needed. ‘But the solution didn’t have a very long shelf-life,’ says Ms Godson. ‘We had to think about how we could overcome this issue, knowing that we wanted to keep the mock blood.’

RCNiLearning: How to monitor blood glucose

Eventually, they decided that the stick could be impregnated instead, with various readings enabling different patient stories to be enacted.

Nursing students at Coventry University are already using the hand at different points throughout their studies. Blood sugar monitoring is introduced at a basic level during their first year, with more in-depth learning taking place in the third year. ‘They’re continually reminded of the importance of this skill,’ says Ms Godson.

Diabetes facts and figures

  • There are 3.9 million people now living with diabetes in the UK
  • Almost a million more people living with type 2 diabetes without knowing it
  • People with type 2 diabetes are 50% more likely to die prematurely
  • By 2025, 5.3 million people will have diabetes, including those undiagnosed
  • Age, family history and ethnicity contribute to risk, with people of African-Caribbean, black African or South Asian descent two to four times more likely to develop type 2 diabetes than white people
  • Obesity remains the single greatest risk factor, responsible for 80-85% of someone’s risk of developing the condition

Source: Diabetes UK

Interest in the UK and overseas

Several other universities, alongside overseas institutions, including in Singapore and Romania have expressed interest in the device. ‘The students love it – they think it’s very innovative,’ says Ms Godson, who secured a grant of £10,000 from the university to help develop the product.

‘I feel really proud of it,’ she adds. ‘It’s put our university on the map, and as a healthcare professional, I feel I’ve really done something good for students’ learning. It’s exciting to see them using it.’

The hope is that the hand will help people newly diagnosed with diabetes, especially those who are nervous about needles. ‘It shows someone how to test their blood glucose, by pricking the model’s finger, hopefully reducing any anxieties they may have,’ says Ms Godson.


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