Haemophilia nurses – a hugely professional yet untapped resource

As World Haemophilia Day falls in this week, it seems appropriate to celebrate the professionals in the front-line of improving the lives of people with haemophilia. So let’s have a big hand for the UK’s Haemophilia Nurses’ Association!

What do we know about this rare breed? Last year we invited all of the haemophilia nurses known to the UK’s HNA to take part in a survey designed to assess the professional status, educational needs and hopes for the future. Between them, the 60 nurses who responded had amassed a whopping total of 603 years in haemophilia practice. Depending on how you look at it the UK’s haemophilia nurses are either a fairly age-challenged bunch or a hugely experienced group of healthcare professionals.

When we (eventually) publish the full data, we’ll probably give a figure for the mean number of years in practice. The “years in practice” ranged from 11 months to 30 years, with at least 8 nurses in post for more than 20 years, suggesting a wealth of practical, clinical experience ready for “newbies” to tap into. (Which, of course, is exactly what happens on this website.) And indeed, the survey revealed great willingness among nurses to share the benefits of their experience: around 84% of our respondents said they would be prepared to act as a “mentor” or ‘buddy” to a new-in-post haemophilia nurse. (Why do I picture a bunch of Tyrannosaurus Rex fighting to the death over a Yinlong downsi!)

Around a third of our nurses were either qualified nurse prescribers or working towards qualification as a prescriber, which can only be a good thing for patients. However, among those qualified to prescribe, a significant minority did not actually prescribe in routine practice. Although most of those who are not currently nurse prescribers expressed interest in taking the prescribing course, there were some negative views: “Once completed, some trusts still do not grant one permission to prescribe independently,” said one. Another noted that “as we have constant access to medical staff there is no need”. Sounds to me like the health service is wasting an opportunity here.

Regular readers will now that Haemnet is actively campaigning to get more nurses to engage in research and to publish. Although 43 haemophilia nurses had completed the Essentials of Haemophilia course at Diploma or Degree level, and we were able to find PubMed citations for only SEVEN of our survey respondents. That total has since risen a little thanks to the acceptance of our Link nurse paper, but there’s a long way to go.

The hunger for personal and professional development among HNA members was on show at this year’s AGM. Last week, the executive committee met to review the meeting, to review the feedback you gave us, and to begin formulating plans for next year. We’ll be posting details very shortly, but save the date (7/8 February 2014) and we promise you’ll have a fun and professionally rewarding time.

Mike Holland founded Haemnet and SixVibe. He is a medical writer, editor and event organiser – find him at Google+ or Driftwood.