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Nurses have key role to play in implementing updated asthma guidance

Friday 30th September 2016
Nursing staff have a key role to play in delivering updated asthma guidance, according to the RCN. Image: LeventKonuk via iStock
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    New guidance on the diagnosis and treatment of asthma has been published by the British Thoracic Society and the Scottish Intercollegiate Guidelines Network, and nurses have a key role to play in helping to implement the advice given.

    Updated guidance

    The main aim of the new guidance is to equip healthcare professionals with all of the information and resources they need in order to be able to make an accurate asthma diagnosis and to begin devising a treatment plan for their patients.

    As there is still no single test that has the ability to fully detect asthma, a variety of sources need to be drawn upon before a diagnosis can be made, with the organisations behind the guidelines emphasising that these need to include extensive examination and tests, as well as closely looking at patients' health history. Combined, these factors can form a structured clinical assessment.

    The guidelines state that aspects of patient history that need to be focused on include any varying or long-term coughs or wheezing, family history of asthma and other respiratory problems, any obstructions to airflow and the absence of other symptoms that may indicate the presence of a condition other than asthma.

    What's more, quality-assured or normal spirometry tests should be carried out in all patients over the age of five, with all nurses and other medical professionals needing to be extensively trained in delivering these frontline breathing tests, as well as analysing their results, particularly because normal spirometry tests are not always able to correctly diagnose asthma. As a result, other potential indicators need to be monitored when patients are in the process of being diagnosed.

    The report authors also discussed the importance of carrying out fractional exhaled nitric oxide tests if a diagnosis is not reached by other methods but suspected symptoms are apparent, as these tests are able to more accurately identify inflammation of the airways, which is a known sign of asthma.

    So, what role can nurses play in helping to implement these new official guidelines for asthma detection and care?

    The vital role nurses can play

    The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) commented on the new guidance, expressing its approval of updated guidelines for nurses and other medical staff to follow to improve patient care.

    Amanda Cheesley, professional lead for long-term conditions and end of life care at the RCN, stated: "Asthma is a common condition, but it is very far from harmless. With the number of deaths rising, and concerns about the effects of air pollution, asthma must no longer be overlooked and the doctors and nurses who treat it must have all the time and tools to treat it with the seriousness it deserves.

    "Nurses in particular can have a vital role in helping people to manage their condition, keep well and avoid hospital admissions. It is imperative that we have enough nurses with the right training to ensure that these guidelines are reflected in the experience of patients."

    Written by James Puckle

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