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Nursing and digital healthcare: two sides of the same coin

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The diagnosis is the start of a journey to recovery, and nurses play a decisive role in this process. Today, we are putting a spotlight on one of the 28 million of these hardworking but often unsung heroes of healthcare.

Catherine Sagias is a Nurse Practitioner and Prescriber at the Adelaide Medical Centre in London, UK. She discusses her professional journey of 8 years, her passion for metabolic conditions, and the changes brought by new technologies including MESI’s digital healthcare solutions.

Catherine Sagias Nurse Practitioner
Catherine Sagias is a Nurse Practitioner and Prescriber at the Adelaide Medical Centre in London, UK.

What inspired you to become a nurse?

My mum was a nurse and most children tend to follow in their parent’s footsteps. However, I never wanted to be a nurse when growing up. I was fixated on animals and was determined to become a zookeeper!

However, one of my first jobs was working in a general practice (GP) surgery as a receptionist. From there, I could see how patients were treated by the entire healthcare team. I observed their health journeys from being unwell to being treated and feeling better. I was also building rapport with the patients, getting to know them and their families.

At this point, I knew that being a nurse was for me. I started by becoming a Healthcare Assistant to get some experience first. Over the years, I gained my qualifications to become a registered nurse and ultimately specialise as a general practice nurse (GPN).

What does your daily work at the general practice (GP) consist of? What are its biggest challenges and triumphs?

I specialise in long-term conditions such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and diabetes, as well as performing daily treatment room duties such as smears, vaccination/ injections, wound care and compression, to name just a few.

It can be very busy, but I enjoy the diversity of the different types of appointments that I can have throughout the day. Having the MESI mTABLET at hand has really helped with our wound care management. We are able to establish quickly if a patient is suitable for compression, which means the healing process will not be delayed for that patient.

I have a particular interest in metabolic conditions and helping patients control their condition through diet alone while reducing their need for medication. Consequently, I have been asked to do several talks to nursing undergraduates as well help admin an online group for other healthcare professionals to share knowledge, cases, and signpost evidence around this subject. Through this work, I have also developed a website for my patients for easy access to this information and help them along their journey. Surprisingly, although developed for my own patients, the website has been signposted and seen by many across the world.

One of the most important tasks of primary care is early disease detection. In the UK, about 7.4% of people have some sort of cardiovascular disease. Apart from stroke and coronary heart disease, the Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD) is among the most dangerous because 70% of the patients do not have any symptoms.

How does the use of technology contribute to early detection here and what part do you play as a nurse?

During the pandemic, the use of technology has been essential to be able to reach the patients quickly, effectively and in the safest way possible. Although this has been a huge learning curve to find new ways of working, it has now become part of our routine. Some examples are 2-way video calling for ‘video consultations’ or programs that automatically send us data in real time, e.g. glucose readings or blood pressure measurements.

The MESI mTABLET has helped us see more people in a quicker time frame and treat patients more effectively when needed.

Also, devices like automatic Ankle-Brachial Index (ABI) machines such as the MESI mTABLET has helped us see more people in a quicker time frame and treat patients more effectively when needed. Previously, this used to take us an hour to as we had to do this manually and there were a lot of steps we had to do during this test. However, we now can do the same test and it only takes 1 minute! Not only does this save time by freeing up more appointments for other patients, but we have also been able to identify patients who have Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD) in a quicker time frame and refer them for treatment sooner. This has been a life saver to have in the surgery (literally).

General practice (GP) offices are increasingly marked by a high workload and technological progress at all levels. This often leads to very connected teams and less strict team hierarchies because the input of each member is essential.

Do you feel that the role of a GP nurse and the appreciation of their contribution is changing for all these reasons?

In the old days, the nurse role would be to perform basic nursing care as well help assist the doctor in their work. To some, this could be perceived as the nurse being lower down the hierarchy system.

However, over the years, the role of a nurse has developed, and more skills have been obtained to the point where nurses now need to have a degree to be able to call themselves a registered nurse. We have nurse consultants and nurse practitioners who specialise in certain fields of medicine and can be very knowledgeable and lead their own clinics. Furthermore, some nurses can also prescribe medications to patients if undergone the appropriate training. Times have changed with regard to what a nurse can do to the point where there is even a nurse-led general practice (GP) surgery in London that works very effectively.

General practice nurses (GPNs) play a huge part in a primary care setting as they tend to be very knowledgeable in certain aspects such as chronic disease and wound care, and tend to keep up to date with the new evidence around these subjects.

I work in a surgery that has a great team of many different healthcare professionals. As part of the team, we have doctors, nurses, physicians associates, pharmacists, social prescribers and health coaches. We all have different job roles, but we all come together for individualised patient care. Having a device such as the MESI mTABLET helps with this as each healthcare professional can have their own account and access patient results easily and promptly. Without this, we couldn’t work as effectively, and patient outcomes have improved because of this.

What would you say to people who are thinking about becoming a nurse? What makes you look forward to coming back to your office every day?

It took me 7 years to get into university to become a nurse. I did not have great GCSEs and, in adulthood, I found out I was actually dyslexic. Nevertheless, this just made me more determined to work harder to gain the qualifications to pursue my career in nursing. Some people may feel they are not academic enough, but persistence pays off and there will be help along the way.

Doing my nursing degree was one of the best times of my life and I enjoyed every moment of it. I love my role as a general practice nurse (GPN) as it is so diverse and every day is different. There hasn’t been one day that I haven’t learnt something new or had a conversation with a patient that changed my life perspective. Today, I received a letter from a patient that brought a tear to my eye, thanking me for the care I had given her. It is things like these that make me love my job and this is what brings me back to the office every day. I wouldn’t change it for the world.

Catherine Sagias Nurse Practitioner

Catherine Sagias

Nurse Practitioner and Lead at Adelaide Medical Centre, London, UK

Catherine Sagias has a passion for helping patients with chronic diseases and long-term conditions, with a particular interest in helping patients put their diabetes into remission, losing weight and improving their overall metabolic health. She has done number of talks to undergraduate nurses as well as other practice nurses around the area with regards to diabetes in remission and other diabetes-related topics. She is also one of the admins of the Low Carb/Real Food Nurse Facebook forum and helps to gather relevant evidence and data to help other nurses around the country wishing to support their own patients to improve their metabolic health.