PRAXIS:  "The action and reflection of people upon their world in order to transform it."

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Experiences of district nurses working with people with spinal cord injury in the community: A descriptive account

Ngā wheako o ngā tapuhi ā-takiwā e mahi ana i waenga i te hapori me te hunga kua whara te aho tuaiwi: He tuhinga whakaahua

Rina Pijpker, RN, MN, Nurse Educator, Burwood Spinal Unit, Christchurch, NZ
Jill Wilkinson, RN, PhD, Adjunct Teaching Fellow, Victoria University, Wellington, NZ

Reference:  Pijpker, R., & Wilkinson, J. (2019). Experiences of district nurses working with people with spinal cord injury in the community: A descriptive account. Nursing Praxis in New Zealand, 35(2), 30-40.

Spinal cord injury is a health condition which significantly affects the health and wellbeing of a person. People with spinal cord injury access a range of health services, including community-based nursing services. There is limited international and New Zealand literature about the perspectives and roles of nurses who work with people with spinal cord injury in the community. This study used a qualitative descriptive approach to analyse the data from semi-structured interviews with three district nurses about their experiences of working with people with spinal cord injury. The findings revealed three themes related to the nature of and factors affecting the district nurse role. The task-based role refers to superficial aspects that were initially described. District nurses went on to describe the complex role, revealing the highly complex work and challenging situations they faced. Lastly, they described the barriers and enablers affecting their ability to perform their role, including the relationship between the nurse and the individual with a spinal cord injury. The nurses provided a rich description about the complexity of health problems people experience and of the short-comings of the health services available to thespinal cord injury community. Their perspectives are consistent with the limitations to care reported in the international and New Zealand literature.  District nurses have a vital role in supporting the health and wellbeing of people with spinal cord injury but are constrained by a service contract that severely limits their ability to provide all but basic care. Recommendations are for the district nurse context and contract to be re-examined, and for further research about the district nurse role and spinal cord injury-related health services.