Original Research

Raising awareness of sensory impairment among community nurses: a brief intervention in a remote island setting

AUTHORS

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Annetta Smith1
PhD, Head of Department *

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Ashley Shepherd2
PhD, Senior Lecturer

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Leah Macaden3
PhD, Lecturer

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Karen L Macleod4
BSc, Community nurse

AFFILIATIONS

1, 3 University of the Highlands and Islands, 12b Ness Walk, Inverness, Scotland, UK

2 University of Stirling, Stirling, Scotland, UK

4 NHS Western Isles, 37 South Beach St, Stornoway, Isle of Lewis, UK

ACCEPTED: 6 March 2018


early abstract:

Introduction: The prevalence of sensory impairment that includes sight and/or hearing impairment is projected to rise worldwide given the strong correlation between sensory impairment, older age, and the demographic structure of the global population. Sensory impairment and associated disability is thus a significant global health concern. The prevalence rates for sensory impairment in Scotland are significant as more people live into older age and as the age distribution in rural areas is markedly different with a higher proportion of older people, the extent of sensory impairment in the rural population will increase proportionally. In rural areas community nurses have a key role in recognising sensory impairment and signposting people to sensory services toreduce the debilitating impact of sensory impairment. However, there is limited evidence about the utility of educational interventions to enhance healthcare professionals’ knowledge, skills and attitudes about sensory impairment and subsequent impact on referral practices. The aim of this study was to evaluate the impact of a brief educational intervention with community nurses. The educational intervention was a training workshop that included simulation practice, information on assessment and referral pathways. The study was conducted in a remote, island community health setting in the Western Isles of Scotland. The study evaluated nurses’ perceptions of the training on their knowledge, attitudes and practice.

Methods: Mixed method, longitudinal design implemented in three phases. Phase 1: Pre and post workshop questionnaire; Phase 2: Postal questionnaire three months post workshop; Phase 3: Qualitative focus group interview six months post workshop.  Kirkpatrick’s (1) model of training evaluation provided a framework for data evaluation. 

Results: 41 community based healthcare professionals who were mostly nurses participated in the study. Participants described increased awareness of the potential for their patients to have a sensory impairment, greater understanding and empathy with patients who experience sensory impairment, more robust patient assessment to identify impairment, and increased likelihood to inform of, and refer to, sensory services.  

Conclusions: Community nurses are often well placed to identity disabilities and patients at risk of injury because of sensory impairment. Participation in simulation training can help to develop greater awareness of the impact of that sensory impairment. Knowledge of specialist services will increase the opportunities for referral to services and impact positively on the lives of older people living in rural settings. Provision of accessible education on sensory impairment for health and social care professionals can enhance care delivery to older people.