Demand for community nurses growsAn ageing population and the increasing number of people living at home with chronic illnesses are placing increasing demands on Australia's community nursing resources.
With the health care system becoming more reliant on community nurses to look after people with chronic and complex health problems such as dementia, diabetes and cancer, researchers at the University of Western Sydney have looked into the types of care provided.
Until now very little research has been done in this area, but this new study has looked at ways patients perceive community nurses and the work that they do.
Senior Lecturer at the UWS School of Nursing, Dr Jane Cioffi, says the study focused on care provided for clients of community health nursing services in Greater Western Sydney over a period of 12 months.
"Community nurses make a major contribution to Australia's health services, but because the work they do is 'behind closed doors', it's usually only people who receive the service who understand the real value of it," Dr Cioffi says.
"Our research has shown that the standard of care people are receiving is good and they're grateful that the service enables them to stay in their home.
"But there's a need to look ahead to see how we can plan for the increasing demand for services in the future," she says.
"Clients are being discharged from hospitals earlier these days. The majority of people we interviewed for our research were receiving wound care, but community nurses also deal with a range of other medical conditions."
Ranked from highest to lowest, the top five diagnostic groups tended by community nurses are carcinoma, skin disorders, frail aged, central nervous system disorders, for example Multiple Sclerosis, and musculoskeletal disorders, such as Osteoarthritis.
The research found community nurses provided 147,126 visits over the 12-month period to clients with chronic and complex conditions.
Seventy-seven per cent of these clients who received the services were aged 60 and over - with a marked percentage of services being received by those 85 and older.
"Clients interviewed for the study spoke of the importance of the relationships they shared with the nurses caring for them.
"Some described the difference it made when they had the same nurse attending to them for a long time because they perceived this nurse to be experienced with good knowledge and the ability to communicate effectively," she says.
"They said the care nurses provided was well coordinated and taught them about various aspects of their own care, including knowing signs or symptoms of problems to look out for, explaining the nature of their condition and what care they are receiving."
Dr Cioffi says the partnership with the community health service will be on going, and will move towards addressing areas that have been identified for further research studies.
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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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