More than one in ten primary care nurses lack even basic training in cardiovascular disease (CVD), and nearly a third (28%) said they were not comfortable seeing patients with CVD, in a major survey of the practice nursing profession.
The survey of more than 800 primary care nurses, by journal Nursing in Practice, revealed that 14% had never undertaken any type of basic training in cardiovascular disease, an ongoing and ever-increasing burden on the modern health service.
Heart and circulatory diseases are the UK's biggest killer. Figures show that in 2004, CVD caused 37% of deaths in the UK, and killed over 216,000 people. And every day in the UK there are 350 preventable strokes or heart attacks due to high blood pressure.
Marilyn Eveleigh, consultant editor of Nursing in Practice, was surprised by the number of nurses lacking CVD training.
"With an average practice caseload having about 10% of registered patients with heart disease, this is sad," she commented.
"It should be a core competency of nursing practice and certainly one to include in an induction training programme."
Respondents were also asked whether they felt comfortable working with patients with cardiovascular disease, and 28% answered "no".
"I need more information so that I can offer the correct advice to the patients in my care," replied a community matron from Huddersfield.
"The changing roles of the community nurse have come along too fast and many people are now responsible for cardiovascular reviews who are not adequately qualified, but are under pressure to still complete reviews with limited knowledge. I believe this is potentially harmful to the patients in our care."
Marilyn Eveleigh believes that this is a dilemma for many practitioners in a variety of situations: "The NMC code requires all nurses to work within their competency, and each registrant is accountable for their actions."
Linda Goldie agrees: "The community matron's comment is so true. They work as autonomous practitioners, generally with prescribing rights and they really should be doing much more formal training, which assesses knowledge and skills."