Aims and objectives. To identify systematically, summarize and critically appraise the current evidence regarding the impact and effectiveness of nurse-led care in dermatology.
Background. A diverse range of nurse-led models of care exist in dermatology. Primary studies have been conducted evaluating these models, but review and synthesis of the findings from these studies have not been undertaken.
Method. Systematic searches of CINAHL, MEDLINE, British Nursing Index (BNI) and the RCN Library Catalogue from 1990 until March 2005. The searches 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. Fourteen relevant publications were identified and included findings from both primary and secondary care. The evidence indicates that nurses are treating a number of dermatological conditions, primarily using treatment protocols, across a broad range of clinical settings. However, some nurses working in primary care, lack confidence to treat some of these conditions and the educational needs of these nurses are frequently unmet. A reduction in the severity of the condition and more effective use of topical therapies are benefits of nurse interventions on service delivery. Faster access to treatment, a reduction in referrals to the general practitioner or dermatologist and an increase in knowledge of their condition are benefits reported by patients.
Conclusions. Findings of the review are generally positive. However, there are methodological weaknesses and under researched issues, e.g. cost effectiveness of nurse-led care and the prescription of medicines by nurses for patients with dermatological conditions that point to the need for further rigorous evaluation.
Relevance to clinical practice. Nurse-led care is an integral element of the dermatology service offered to patients. This review highlights the impact of this care and the issues that require consideration by those responsible for the development of nurse-led models of care in dermatology.