Nurses' potential to lead in non-communicable disease global crisis

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Background:The incidence and projected rise of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) are a significant global public health threat. Nurses as health educators are well positioned to support health promotion and prevention efforts. The intent was to understand nurses' interest, challenges and enabling factors in carrying out this important role in addressing the NCD crisis.Method:A stratified representative survey of 1600 nurses in eight countries was conducted to better understand how nurses perceive their role in addressing risk factors associated with NCDs, as well as the types of supports required in order to facilitate this work. The study also explores nurses' changing views of the profession and their practice environment. The structured survey was administered via telephone and face-to-face interviews composed primarily of multiple choice closed-ended questions.Results:Key findings included that 95% of nurses wanted to use their knowledge, skills and time to educate individuals on the threat and prevention of NCDs. They expressed their belief that they should be spending significantly more time, on average almost twice the amount as they currently are able to devote, on preventing the development or escalation of NCDs. However, nurses' potential to do this is diluted by heavy workloads; over one third reported that their workload had worsened over the last 5 years, and 95% of nurses are experiencing time pressures. Nurses believe these constraints, almost unanimously (98%), keep them from being able to spend more time with patients in an educational capacity.Conclusions:Nurses are interested in spending more time addressing NCD prevention, but workload, time constraints and their perception towards the job of nursing hinder them from achieving their potential. Unhealthy lifestyle choices are a risk factor for NCDs; through awareness and education, positive behaviour change is possible. Research has demonstrated that nurses are effective at supporting individuals to make behaviour change, administering disease management programmes and enabling self-care as well as self-management. Practice environment issues that prevent nurses from fully reaching their potential in addressing the NCD crisis need to be addressed.

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