Lifestyle risk factors like smoking, nutrition, alcohol consumption, and physical inactivity (SNAP) are the main behavioural risk factors for chronic disease. Primary health care is an appropriate setting to address these risk factors in individuals. Generalist community health nurses (GCHNs) are uniquely placed to provide lifestyle interventions as they see clients in their homes over a period of time. The aim of the paper is to examine the impact of a service-level intervention on the risk factor management practices of GCHNs.
The trial used a quasi-experimental design involving four generalist community nursing services in NSW, Australia. The services were randomly allocated to either an intervention group or control group. Nurses in the intervention group were provided with training and support in the provision of brief lifestyle assessments and interventions. The control group provided usual care. A sample of 129 GCHNs completed surveys at baseline, 6 and 12months to examine changes in their practices and levels of confidence related to the management of SNAP risk factors. Six semi-structured interviews and four focus groups were conducted among the intervention group to explore the feasibility of incorporating the intervention into everyday practice.
Nurses in the intervention group became more confident in assessment and intervention over the three time points compared to their control group peers. Nurses in the intervention group reported assessing physical activity, weight and nutrition more frequently, as well as providing more brief interventions for physical activity, weight management and smoking cessation. There was little change in referral rates except for an improvement in weight management related referrals. Nurses’ perception of the importance of ‘client and system-related’ barriers to risk factor management diminished over time.
This study shows that the intervention was associated with positive changes in self-reported lifestyle risk factor management practices of GCHNs. Barriers to referral remained. The service model needs to be adapted to sustain these changes and enhance referral.
Keywords: Primary health care, Community nursing, Lifestyle risk factor management, Barriers