Raising awareness of sensory impairment among community nurses: a brief intervention in a remote island setting

Annetta Smith, Ashley Shepherd, Leah Macaden, Karen Macleod

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)
64 Downloads (Pure)


Introduction: The prevalence of sensory impairment that includes, visual and/or hearing impairment is projected to rise worldwide given the strong correlation between sensory impairment, older age, and the demographic structure of the global population. Sensory impairment and associated disability is thus a significant global health concern. The prevalence rates for sensory impairment in Scotland are significant as more people live into older age and as the age distribution in rural areas is markedly different with a higher proportion of older people, the extent of sensory impairment in the rural population will increase proportionally.

In rural areas, community nurses have a key role in recognising sensory impairment and signposting people to sensory services to reduce the debilitating impact of sensory impairment. However, there is limited evidence about the utility of educational interventions to enhance healthcare professionals’ knowledge, skills and attitudes about sensory impairment and subsequent impact on referral practices. The aim of this study was to evaluate the impact of a brief educational intervention with community nurses. The educational intervention was a training workshop which included simulation practice, information on assessment and referral pathways. The study was conducted in a remote, island community health setting in the Western Isles of Scotland. The study evaluated nurses’ perceptions of the training on their knowledge, attitudes and practice.

Methods: Mixed method, longitudinal design implemented in three phases. Phase 1: pre and post workshop questionnaire; Phase 2: Postal questionnaire three months post workshop; Phase 3: Qualitative focus group interviews six months post workshop. Kirkpatrick’s [1] model of training evaluation provided a framework for data evaluation.
Results: 41 community based healthcare professionals who were mostly nurses participated in the study. Participants described increased awareness of the potential for their patients to have a sensory impairment, greater understanding and empathy with patients who experience sensory impairment, more robust patient assessment to identify impairment, and increased likelihood to inform of, and refer to, sensory services.
Conclusions: Community nurses are often well placed to identity disabilities and patients at risk of injury because of sensory impairment. Participation in simulation can help to develop greater awareness of the impact of that sensory impairment. Knowledge of specialist services will increase the opportunities for referral to services and impact positively on the lives of older people living in rural settings. Accessible education about sensory impairment should be provided to all health and social care professionals who deliver direct care to older people across all care settings.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberRRH4548
JournalRural and Remote Health
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 22 Aug 2018


  • community nursing
  • remote and island
  • Scotland
  • sensory impairment
  • sight and hearing loss


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