Our Asthma lead on Education for Health’s asthma offering

7th May 2019

Viv Marsh
Viv Marsh

Education for Health Asthma Education Lead Viv Marsh writes about our asthma offering and the continued need for asthma education.

I joined Education for Health as the Clinical Education Lead for asthma in 2013, having spent the previous seven years working as a Paediatric Asthma and Allergy Nurse Specialist in the NHS. Prior to that, I had been a school nurse for eight years and before that a senior staff nurse of acute paediatric medicine for five years. So, although I am both a Registered General Nurse and a Registered Sick Children’s Nurse, my commitment to healthcare for children and young people runs deep.

“More education for paediatric nurses”

When my colleagues in the NHS heard that I was joining Education for Health I was contacted numerous times with requests to ”bring back the paediatric asthma diploma” and “organise more education for paediatric nurses”, and this has been very much on my mind ever since.

Bringing back an academically accredited module in paediatric asthma was not a realistic goal; the demand was too low to cover the costs (it costs a lot to validate an educational module with a Higher Education Institute). So, I had to think about this in different ways. What’s more, Education for Health has such a strong heritage in providing education for primary care that expanding to the needs in secondary care seemed to be a real challenge. However, with the support of a fantastic Education team, a way forward was found and great progress has been made.

Education for Health now offers academically accredited asthma education modules at diploma, degree and masters level. These are suitable for a variety of Healthcare Professionals. This integrated approach not only widens access to quality assured education, it also supports the goals of the NHS for clinicians to work in partnership with other professionals involved in patients’ healthcare. I am seeing an increasing number of paediatric nurses from all over the UK successfully completing our asthma modules and most recently there has been a surge in demand for degree and masters level study. It is now possible for paediatric nurses to complete a full BSc degree or MSc in Respiratory Practice; I think this offers tangible options for paediatric nurses wanting to specialise in the respiratory field, which is really exciting.

With support from Education for Health, the National Paediatric Respiratory and Allergy Nurses Group (NPRANG) have been able to develop an annual poster competition for its members and this is now being used as a forum for Paediatric Nurses to share examples of good practice and innovative projects. Education for Health continue to sponsor an educational award as the first prize in the respiratory poster stream of this competition.

We also continue to offer our Introduction to Paediatric Asthma workshop, aimed at professionals in primary care including school nurses and health visitors and most recently we have developed a workshop for those working in acute care settings to support the assessment, management and safe discharge of children experiencing asthma attacks.

On a final note, Education for Health has worked in partnership with the George Coller Memorial Fund to develop and make freely available a simple online training resource. This aims to raise awareness of paediatric asthma amongst non-healthcare staff who work with children, such as teachers, guide/scout leaders and sports coaches. Supporting Children’s Health is a fantastic resource and it attract thousands of new users every year, if you haven’t already seen it do take a look: www.supportingchildrenshealth.org

Making an impact through education

When I look back on the past six years, I think it is fair to say we have come along in leaps and bounds. Education for Health now offers a range of high quality, flexible education and training options suitable for those working with children and young people with asthma and other respiratory conditions. And when considering current health circumstances, I can’t help but think that this is crucial.

A recent study from the Nuffield Trust think tank and the Association for Young People’s Health has emphasised the urgent need for focus on paediatric asthma. The study found that death rates for asthma in 10 to 24-year-olds is highest in the UK when compared to 14 other high-income European nations. By offering asthma education and training that is appropriate for paediatric nurses, I believe we can improve this situation and really impact the lives of young people living with this long term condition.