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Clinical news summary: Top nurse research and practice stories from March 2018

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Miss any of the clinical and practice news affecting the profession during March 2018? Catch up with our summary of the main study headlines and clinical breakthroughs.


Exclusive: Specialist nurse predicts scanner will replace scores in pressure ulcer care

United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust

Exclusive: Technology may transform ulcer care, says nurse

Source: Bruin Biometrics

The SEM Scanner, the wireless point-of-care device for pressure ulcer detection that is linked to the PUNT digital registry

A senior tissue viability nurse plans to ditch traditional pressure ulcer risk assessment in favour of a hand-held scanner that can detect changes in the skin invisible to the naked eye.

“What I expect to do if we get full implementation is take the Waterlow out altogether”

Glenn Smith

Glenn Smith, tissue viability and nutrition senior clinical nurse specialist at the Isle of Wight Trust, is among UK nurses to trial the SEM (sub-epidural moisture) scanner.

The battery-operated scanner, which costs £5,835 can detect skin damage on average five days before it is visible to clinicians, according to the device’s manufacturer Bruin Biometrics.

Mr Smith told Nursing Times he believed the device had the potential to transform nurses’ approach to pressure ulcer prevention and care.

A two-month trial on one of the trust’s ward saw 35 patients with a Waterlow score of 10 or above assessed using the scanner, of which none went on to develop a new pressure ulcer.

Pressure ulcer/tissue viability

SEM (sub-epidural moisture) scanner

Source: Bruin Biometrics

SEM scanner

Following the trial, funding was made available for three scanners. Mr Smith has since submitted a plan for two scanners on every ward and says his goal is to eventually stop using traditional risk assessment altogether and rely on the scanners alongside nurses’ professional judgement.

“What I expect to do if we get full implementation is take the Waterlow out altogether, because I just don’t think it is a useful tool,” he said.

According to his calculations, using the scanners to spot potential ulcers could save his trust up to £600,000 a year and up to 1,420 hours of nursing time – 36 weeks in total per year.


Pharmacist aims to cut jab errors with better guidance for nurses

Needles, jobs and vaccination

Pharmacist aims to cut jab errors with better guidance for nurses

Source: University of Bath

A pharmacist is hoping to help hospital nurses give safer injections by improving the guidance they receive on such procedures from his own profession. About 35% of injections given in hospital include at least one error, according to Dr Matthew Jones, from the University of Bath, who has been awarded a fellowship for his project by the National Institute for Health Research.


New European restrictions on use of epilepsy drug sodium valproate

patient and doctor

patient and doctor

The epilepsy drug sodium valproate must no longer be used in any woman or girl able to have children unless she has a pregnancy prevention programme in place, under new rules. The move, agreed across Europe, is designed to make sure patients are fully aware of the risks and the need to avoid becoming pregnant while taking the drug that is linked to birth defects.


‘Out of step’ NHS self-discharge process in need of overhaul

'Out of step' NHS self-discharge process in need of overhaul

Hospital wards and beds

Source: Lancaster University

Approaches to self-discharge, including forms used to document the process, should be overhauled to explore the reasons behind wanting to leave hospital early, instead of using them to persuade patients to stay “as a priority”, researchers have concluded. They said nurses were currently encouraged to caution against self-discharge because of “inherently paternalistic” procedures.


Weak handshake could be ‘simple measure of cardiovascular risk’

generic managers handshakes

Hand grip strength could be used as a simple measure of heart health, according to UK researchers, who have found that a weak grip can be linked with changes in the heart’s structure and function. As a result, the scientists at Queen Mary University of London suggested it could be used as a broad measure of someone’s heart health.


Tai chi ‘as good as or better’ than aerobic exercise for chronic pain

Taipei Medical University

Tai chi ‘reduces risk’ of falling in older adults

Source: Craig Nagy

Tai chi has similar or greater benefits than aerobic exercise for patients with fibromyalgia, a US trial has found, suggesting it may be an alternative treatment strategy. Pain symptom scores improved significantly more in patients doing tai chi rather than aerobic exercise after 24 weeks.


Nurse and bed shortages ‘risk reversing infection prevention progress’

Public Health England

‘Disappointingly’ few trusts sharing antibiotics data with nurses

E. coli 

Crowded NHS hospitals with too few nurses are increasing the risk of bacteria outbreaks and threatening to reverse the progress made on infection control, Antibiotic Research UK has warned. It said high rates of bed occupancy made the spread of bacterial infections more likely.


Half of primary care consultations involve more than one condition

Nurse taking elderly man's blood pressure

“diagnose, intervene, live with chronic condition”

More than a half of patients presenting in primary care now have two or more long-term conditions, a new study has indicated. Researchers found 27% of patients registered with practices in England had so-called “multi-morbidity” and that these patients accounted for 53% of consultations.


Upping inhaler use may not prevent asthma attacks in children


Steroid inhalers linked to higher risk of hard-to-treat infections

Brown preventer inhaler

Short-term increases in inhaled steroids do not provide the benefits that are generally expected during the early stages of an attack, according to US researchers. They found children with mild to moderate asthma did not benefit from the common practice of increasing their inhaled steroids by five times at the first signs of an asthma exacerbation and may even slow a child’s growth.


Sitting and inactivity may increase risk of urinary tract symptoms

Elderly man, sitting on bed

Elderly man, depressed

Prolonged sitting time and low physical activity levels are independently linked with the development of lower urinary tract symptoms, according to researchers. Their findings, published in the journal BJU International, involved a large sample of 69,795 middle-aged Korean men.


Nurse lecturers highlight ‘potential risks of chemotherapy to nurses’

Woman with medical drip

Doctor nurse drip

A website has been launched by two nurse lecturers in order to highlight what they say are the “potential dangers” that healthcare workers face when delivering chemotherapy to patients. They are calling for the mandatory use of closed system drug transfer devices to minimise the risk of nurses being exposed to potentially dangerous cytotoxic medicines during the treatment process.


Too many patients with lower back pain receiving the ‘wrong care’

back pain

back pain

Overuse of inappropriate tests and treatments such as imaging, opioids and surgery means many patients with lower back pain are not receiving the right care, according to researchers in The Lancet. Researchers noted that evidence suggested that lower back pain should be managed in primary care, with the first line of treatment being education and advice to keep active and at work.



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