Felicity Astin

Developing nurses to deliver the best cardiovascular care

With a growing and ageing population and an increase in lifestyle-related conditions such as obesity and diabetes the challenge facing the health service in Europe is immense.

Cardiovascular disease such as coronary disease and stroke continues to be a significant global health burden and the leading cause of mortality worldwide.

Nurse education

The European Society of Cardiology (ESC) which includes the Council on Cardiovascular Nursing and Allied Professions (CCNAP) has an international membership of over 50,000 members from 56 countries. The Society has a vision to decrease the burden of cardiovascular disease in Europe.

As the largest sector of the health professional workforce nurses have a significant contribution to make. However, the provision of nurse education in Europe is variable. Research has revealed that the level of nurse education, together with the nurse-to-patient ratio, has an impact on 30-day in-patient mortality rates. Hospitals with a greater number of their workforce educated to Bachelor level have lower 30-day in-patient mortality, compared to those with less (Aitken et al, 2014).

Core curriculum

Felicity Astin

An educational initiative led by Professor Felicity Astin (pictured above) at the University of Huddersfield, together with colleagues, has made a significant contribution towards the streamlining of cardiovascular nurse education in Europe. A core curriculum has been developed, on behalf of CCNAP, that can be used as a learning framework to guide nurse education in cardiovascular care.

A grass roots approach was taken when developing the curriculum with the emphasis being on the decentralisation of decision making. This approach supports the autonomy and shared responsibility of each individual country.

There are eight key themes of the core curriculum. These themes are transferable across different levels of clinical practice and settings and can be used as a learning framework to guide nurse education.

Diagram of Core Curriculum
Diagram of Core Curriculum

Focus on ‘care’ not ‘cure’

A significant proportion of illnesses are preventable and by shifting the focus from ‘cure’ to ‘care’ the aim is to help people to self-manage their health.

The core curriculum moves the emphasis away from the biomedical approach to care delivery and strengthening the person and family centred perspective. Key components include effective communication, learning and teaching skills, the ability to facilitate patient autonomy and the provision of individualised care in a respectful manner – all of which were identified as key markers of quality care by in-patients in a large scale survey of over 68,000 patients in Europe (Jenkinson et al, 2002).

The curriculum also emphasises the importance of health literacy – the ability and opportunity that an individual has to access, read and understand high quality health information – which has the potential to enhance health promotion, wellbeing and reduce health inequalities. The educational provision of cardiovascular nurses needs to reflect the changing healthcare needs of our global population.

Equality of nurse education

The development of a core curriculum contributes to the advancement of cardiovascular nursing education across Europe. Currently educational programmes for nurses differ across European countries with an increasing need to provide nurses in Europe with access to Bachelor level education.

The next step is to identify advanced and specialist curricula. Other specialist groups, such as the Heart Failure Association within the European Society of Cardiology are currently developing such material. The content within the core curriculum will link with the specialist content to progress and advance cardiovascular nurse education.

The core curriculum is being used to inform similar educational developments in Australia and will be presented as part of a keynote session at the World Heart Federation meeting in Mexico in June 2016.

For further information contact:

Professor Felicity Astin
Email: f.astin@hud.ac.uk

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