Diabetes is a problem that healthcare professionals are struggling to keep pace with. According to research from Cardiff University, the number of people living with type 2 diabetes in the UK has trebled in the last 20 years; a problem that is further compounded by the fact that more people with the condition are also living longer.

The pressure this places on healthcare professionals from a whole range of disciplines is unprecedented. The National Diabetes Inpatient Audit confirms that less than a quarter of hospitals have a diabetes specialist inpatient nurse to co-ordinate diabetes patient care. Many hospitals must rethink how they train a broad range of healthcare professionals who work together to support individual patients.

 

A multi-disciplinary approach

 

For the last ten years, through their MSc and Postgraduate Diploma in diabetes, which now has over 1,000 graduates, Cardiff University have been helping hospitals respond to this growing need by providing innovative training that promotes a multi-disciplinary approach to learning. “Patients with a serious condition like diabetes need a seamless pathway of care. Individuals need to know what components of care other healthcare professionals are giving, hence the need for interprofessional education programmes” explains Professor Ann Taylor, Postgraduate Taught Programmes Director at Cardiff University.

“If you want a multi-disciplinary approach, then it’s a no-brainer to educate as a team. Many who study the course are already leaders in their field and we hope that the practical knowledge and management skills they gain will help influence wider change.”

"Less than a quarter of hospitals have a diabetes specialist inpatient nurse."

The courses welcome students from a range of disciplines so GPs, paediatricians, wound care specialists and many other professionals can study diabetes side-by-side. The university have also built diabetes modules into courses that focus on areas like wound care, pain relief, ageing health and disease, in response to the increasing contact professionals within these sectors have with diabetes patients. In doing so, students not only learn about diabetes care, but also gain a unique perspective into the roles, responsibilities and challenges of other healthcare professions.

 

Flexible learning is key

 

The diabetes epidemic isn’t just impacting qualified health professionals. Outside the hospital setting, the Care Quality Commission have also stipulated that all staff caring for people with diabetes in nursing and residential care homes require adequate training.

“Within the NHS we have non-qualified healthcare assistants, right through to highly specialised senior doctors, caring for those with diabetes, so it’s a challenge finding a flexible pathway of training programmes that suit everyone,” says Professor Taylor.

"Think: distance learning, one-off sessions and free lectures."

Healthcare providers certainly don’t have excess spare cash to throw at training programmes and neither do already overstretched healthcare professionals have hours of spare time to absorb themselves in study. Thus, a range of flexible learning opportunities is vital. In response, Cardiff University is offering module-based, distance learning options, one-off accredited sessions and even free lectures alongside their postgraduate studies, to meet the varied needs, budgets and time constraints of the students.

 

 

Connecting the global response

 

Of course this is not just a UK problem; the global prevalence of diabetes has nearly doubled since 1980, rising from 4.7 per cent to 8.5 per cent among adults, according to The World Health Organisation.

Regardless of where they are in the world, healthcare teams are facing the same problems. Thankfully, technological advances are helping them access the all-important training they need to stay up-to-date and collaborate with their peers across the globe.

"Globally, diabetes has doubled since the 80s."

Distance learning opportunities have expanded exponentially in recent years and now virtually anyone with an internet connection can access learning at a time and place that’s convenient for them.

Online chat rooms, webinars and conference call facilities are making it possible for healthcare professionals around the world not only to receive training but also to share that all important evidence-based practice, which Cardiff University hope will not only shape their own learning, but the future of diabetes care across the world.

 

Learning for the future

 

With the National Diabetes Inpatient Audit reporting that as many as one in six inpatient beds in the UK is occupied by someone with diabetes, the need to train more healthcare professionals has never been greater. But we must also plan for the future.

"Potential for a comprehensive global body of evidence."

The number of people living with diabetes and its co-morbidities means that more complex healthcare needs are presenting themselves. Regardless of the budgetary and time constraints, one thing is certain; we need to ensure that healthcare teams are trained to cope with the changing needs of patients. With flexible approaches to study being offered for those who cannot undertake full-time education, there is potential to develop a comprehensive global body of evidence-based practice that could inform and shape future diabetes care– something that is vital with the condition showing little sign of decline.

 

Learn more

Cardiff University School of Medicine’s MSc and Postgraduate Diploma in Diabetes have been designed to equip healthcare professionals with a sound knowledge of diabetes and related issues as they present in practice, covering the pathophysiology and clinical management of diabetes.

Cardiff University was named University of the Year at the 2017 Business and Education Partnerships Awards, and was The Times and The Sunday Times Welsh University of the Year 2018. To find out more please email pgtmedadmissions@cardiff.ac.uk, call 029 206 7214, or visit cardiff.ac.uk/medicine