I had an interesting conversation late last year with a colleague who returned to study as an Enrolled Nurse (EN) after a number of years working in administrative roles within various government and non-government organisations.
This colleague had returned to a hands-on, coordinator role on remote communities where her EN training and strong administration background helped to create a well organised service. I asked her why she thought adding the EN qualification to her already wide knowledge base was of benefit to her role, given she was more involved in the administration side of the service rather than the hands-on service delivery. Her response gave me food for thought.
As a coordinator, she was responsible for the internal assessment of clients and the development of care plans. The benefit of having a nursing background, she explained, was the knowledge of disease states and the impact this had on clients and the care and support they required. She went on to explain; if a client has a diagnosis of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), their breathing will be impaired and they may find walking any great distance is an effort and they tire easily. She is alert to the possibility that the person may require transport assistance to get to the local store to do their shopping because it is too far to walk, aware that they might require a shower chair in their bathroom because they find it difficult to stand up for too long without getting breathless. Knowing what the diagnosis is allows her to discuss the impact the disease has with the person seeking assistance. She uses her knowledge to delve sensitively into the needs of the client and, from this, is able to develop a comprehensive care plan and associated referrals for support or aids and equipment.
This knowledge is also used to up-skill her care staff. By helping staff to understand disease states, and the impact on people they provide care support to, this coordinator has improved the hands-on care standard. In the case of the client with COPD, staff understand that they need to allow the person to take their time in the shower, not to rush them when walking alongside, and to park close to the entrance to the store to minimise the person needing to walk any great distance.
Now, not many of us can afford the time or money to take eighteen months off to retrain as an Enrolled Nurse, even if we had the inclination. However, we can equip ourselves with the knowledge of various disease conditions and the impact they have on a person. I'm not telling you to diagnose the person yourself – that's best done by the professionals – but simply knowing how a disease will affect a client will greatly improve the care you can provide them.
The internet is a great resource and can be used to gain this knowledge (there’s that continuation of professional development again). Here at CDCS, we are also putting together some Spotlights on Diseases fact sheets about various common diseases and suggestions for what to look for when assessing and developing care plans. They will begin to appear on the website from next month, so keep an eye out for them or sign up for the free blog updates – we will be sending out an email announcing each Disease Spotlight to our followers.