BMJ Publishing Group
School of Medical and Health Sciences / Nutrition and Health Innovation Research Institute
Objectives: To assess the experiences and knowledge of nurses in the area of iron deficiency. Design: A cross-sectional, exploratory study using online survey. Setting: Data were collected from nurses working at various primary, secondary and tertiary Australian health practices and organisations. Participants: Australian nurses currently in practice. Method: Australian nurses currently in practice were invited to complete an online survey about their work background, personal experiences with iron deficiency and iron-deficiency identification and treatment. The survey included a nine-item questionnaire to assess knowledge of iron-deficiency risk factors and biochemistry. Results: A total of 534 eligible nurses participated in the survey. Participants were more likely to be female, aged 55-64 years, and working in general practice. Just under half (45.1 %) reported being diagnosed with iron deficiency themselves. Unusual fatigue or tiredness was the most frequent symptom that alerted nurses to potential iron deficiency in patients (reported by 91.9 % of nurses). Nurses who had participated in formal training around iron deficiency in the last 5 years demonstrated a significantly higher knowledge score (4.2 ± 2.1) compared with those who had not or were not sure about their formal training status (3.7 ± 1.9, p = 0.035). Knowledge around the understanding of functional iron deficiency was limited. Conclusions: Nurses report personal experiences of iron deficiency and show good knowledge of symptoms, demonstrating the potential for them to take a leading role in managing iron deficiency in patients. Educational programmes are required to address knowledge gaps and should be offered via various methods to accommodate a diverse nurse cohort. Our research highlights the potential for an expanded scope of practice for nurses in the primary care setting in the area of iron deficiency.
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