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Nurse-led care in dermatology: a review of the literature


  • Conflicts of interest: None declared.

Dr M. Courtenay.


Background  Nurses play lead roles in the delivery of care in dermatology. While a number of primary studies have been conducted evaluating nurse-led care in dermatology, review and synthesis of the findings from these studies has not been undertaken.

Objectives  To systematically identify, summarize and critically appraise the current evidence regarding the impact and effectiveness of nurse-led care in dermatology.

Methods  Systematic searches were done of CINAHL, MEDLINE, British Nursing Index and the Royal College of Nursing Library Catalogue from 1990 until March 2005. The searches were not restricted to the U.K., and were supplemented by an extensive hand search of the literature through references identified from retrieved articles and by contact with experts in the field.

Results  A total of 14 relevant publications were identified (and included findings from both primary and secondary care), of which five were descriptions of nursing activities, five were evaluations of nurse interventions and four were patient evaluations of nurse-led care. The evidence emerging from the literature indicates that nurses are treating a number of dermatological conditions, primarily using treatment protocols, across a broad range of clinical settings. However, there is a lack of confidence among nurses working in primary care (predominantly practice nurses) to treat some of these conditions (including scalp scaling in psoriasis and infected eczema). Although the importance of education is recognized, the educational needs of these nurses are frequently unmet. The benefits of nurse interventions on service delivery include a reduction in the severity of condition and more effective use of topical therapies. Patients report faster access to treatment, a reduction in referrals to the GP or dermatologist, and an increase in knowledge of their condition.

Conclusions  Nurses frequently play lead roles in the diverse range of models of care that exist in dermatology. Although findings of the review are generally positive, there are methodological weaknesses and under-researched issues, e.g. cost effectiveness of nurse-led care, and extended independent and supplementary nurse prescribing in dermatology, that point to the need for further rigorous evaluation.