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The University of Southampton

Southampton course could provide faster treatment for skin disease sufferers

Published: 19 January 2004

The first ever dermatology course designed for primary care nurses will be available from September 2004. Developed by University of Southampton for the Skin Care Campaign (SCC), in collaboration with the British Dermatological Nursing Group, the course will use a combination of class contact and distance education.

A raft of evidence suggests a role for nurses in the effective management of patients with skin diseases, yet most nurses receive little or no routine dermatology training. The introduction of the new course at Southampton ultimately has the potential to result in faster, more effective treatment for people with skin disease and reduce the need for them to join hospital waiting lists.

According to the Skin Care Campaign, which is co-funding the development of the course with the Department of Health, almost a quarter of the population will have a skin disease that warrants medical attention at some point in their life. Sleep deprivation, discomfort, taunting, bullying and time-consuming ineffective self-treatment regimes are common among people with skin disease. Many of them eventually go to health centres for help and end up on hospital waiting lists.

The new skin care training module aims to teach primary care nurses how to treat patients with skin conditions and how to educate them on self-management of their condition.

The course has been developed by Rebecca Penzer, a Visiting Research Fellow and Independent Consultant within a team led by Dr Steven Ersser, Head of Nursing Development in the University of Southampton's School of Nursing and Midwifery.

"The need for improvements in dermatology service provision is a major issue in hospitals and the community. One of the biggest barriers is the paucity of dermatology training among non-specialist health care professionals such as GPs, nurses and pharmacists," comments Dr Ersser. "Many people with skin problems have chronic conditions and research shows that these can be effectively self managed with the proper clinical support. Our long-standing commitment to research and development in this field can now be used to train people to treat these conditions and to help the individual to self-manage."

The School has also been awarded a grant from the Department of Health to develop the module further, in association with the SCC. This will allow primary care nurses to adopt a more flexible approach to learning through the use of a workbook and an e-learning facility for distance education, combined with class contact.

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