Example Nursing Essay

Identify a patient, stating the reason for admission/appointment.

Identify a patient, stating the reason for admission/appointment. It must be on diabetes. Describe a specific problem that has been highlighted through the assessment process. Explore factors that may have led to their hospital admission/appointment. This could include physical psychological and social aspects.

Case details

In this essay we shall discuss the case of Mrs Singh. She is an elderly lady of 76 yrs. old. Who lives in warden assisted accommodation. She has done so for the last ten years since her husband died. She has had Type II diabetes mellitus for the last 17 years, and copes reasonably well considering her age and her comparative infirmity. She has been able to go out and get her shopping from the nearby shops and is otherwise self-caring, clean and tidy.

According to the referral letter from her General Practitioner, who arranged this admission to hospital, a number of people had recently commented that she looked ill and was not caring for herself as well as she used to do. Her family live a considerable distance away from her and, although they see her about once or twice a month, they do not stay for long as they have a business to run.

When she was admitted she was found to be lucid and coherent but her family told us that she had had a number of episodes of confusion recently. She was occasionally very sleepy and had left the gas burning on one occasion. She had a large infected ulcer on her left shin, which had clearly been there for a matter of weeks, but because of her habit of wearing long skirts, no one had noticed it. She had a degree of ankleoedema, but her physical examination was otherwise unremarkable, apart from the fact that she had a BMI in excess of 29. She is a moderate smoker.


Mrs Singh as an individual is clearly unique, but sadly, she also represents a great many elderly diabetic patients who live in similar conditions. The thrust of this particular discussion will be the aetiology and management of her condition with particular relevance to her leg ulcer.

Diabetes Mellitus, an overview

Diabetes is a comparatively common disease process in the UK. In children it is the commonest major illness (after childhood infections). There are approximately 1.5 million diabetic patients in the UK at present and the number is relentlessly increasing. (Devendra et al 2004).

The 1.5 million are not equally spread across all segments of the population. People from the Asian and Afro-Caribbean ethnic backgrounds have a markedly increased risk of developing Diabetes Mellitus (UKPDSG 1998) with one in four of all Afro-Caribbean women over the age of 55 being diabetic. (Nathan 1998).

Increasing age and BMI also are both independent risk factors for Diabetes Mellitus (James 1997). Of this number, it is expected that about 10% will develop some form of lower limb ulceration while they are diabetic. (Amos et al 1997). To some extent, it is statistically more likely that those patients who have poor control of their diabetic state will develop ulceration (and other complications) than those patients who have good control.

The other factor that is relevant in the aetiology of leg ulceration is the length of time a person is diabetic. Chronicity of the disease process is an independent variable for leg ulceration. (Simon P et al 2004).

A number of authorities have estimated the burden of cost of Diabetes Mellitus to the NHS. A recent study by Newrick (et al 2000) considered that 9% of the total NHS budget was spent on diabetes and diabetic related issues. By far the biggest single portion of that amount (over half) was on the treatment of complications and the commonest clinically relevant complication is that of venous ulceration (Ellison et al2002)

We can start by considering the pathophysiology of Diabetes Mellitus


This is a huge subject in its own right and we shall therefore present a brief overview as far as it is relevant to Mrs Singh. In broad terms Diabetes Mellitus is a condition where the body loses the ability to metabolise carbohydrates in general and glucose in particular.

Glucose is absorbed from the gut, transported to the liver where is can be stored as glycogen, and then transported through the bloodstream to the cells in the periphery of the body, where it is one of the main metabolic substrates. It is absorbed from the blood into the cells by a specific molecular carrier system and this is totally insulin dependent.

If there is a failure of insulin production, then the circulating level of insulin falls and the glucose is not transported into the cells. This leads, initially to hyperglycaemia and finally to ketosis and metabolic failure. This is the situation of Type I diabetes mellitus.

The alternative is Type II diabetes mellitus where the cells lose the ability to respond to the circulating insulin levels. This also results in hyperglycaemia and eventual metabolic failure but is characterised by high levels of circulating insulin. In general terms, Type I diabetes mellitus is a comparatively acute illness whereas Type 1 diabetes mellitus tends to be far more chronic, sometimes taking many months or even years to become clinically apparent. (after Donnelly et al 2000)/

The complications of Diabetes Mellitus are many. The largest group are the micro- and macro vascular group of the cardiovascular complications.

(Stratton I et al 2000). The macro vascular group are usually related to the process of atherosclerosis and present with either degrees of myocardial is chaemia or as peripheral impairment such as intermittent claudication or ulceration. In general terms the incidence of this type of complication is directly associated with the average levels of HbA1 (which is a long term indicator of diabetic control) (HSG 1997).

Nursing interventions

The major nursing intervention to discuss here is the management of the leg ulcer. In any medical intervention its important to establish a sound evidence base (Sackett, 1996). We shall therefore quote the literature relevant to each point.

The first, and arguably most important consideration is whether the ulcer is primarily venous, arterial or (more rarely) neuropathic in origin. This is comparatively easily determined by an assessment of the ankle/brachial pressure ratio. This is measured by means of a Doppler measure and the ratio is easily calculated. If it is less than the critical level of 0.8 it is likely that an significant arterial element is present.(Partsch H. 2003).

Mrs Singh was treated with a 4 layer bandage. Her ratio was significantly above the 0.8 threshold and the main aetiology of her ulcer was therefore judged to be venous.

The composition and construction of a 4-layer bandage is very specific but it can be individually modified to suit the demands of the individual patient. The first layer is a cotton wool based bandage with the primary purpose of absorbing the copious amounts of exudates that are common with this type of ulcer. It also has the secondary purpose of spreading the pressure evenly across the underlying tissues the second layer is a crepe bandage which has the prime function of holding the lower layer in place. The third layer is a compressive layer, usually an elastic type of bandage is then applied and this is covered by a final binding layer. (Nelsonet al. 2004).

The rationale behind the bandage is that in the typical diabetic venous ulcer there is an increased pressure at the venous end of the capillary bed which translates into stagnation in the capillary blood flow which renders the tissues less viable because of poor oxygenation. By exerting physical pressure of about 40 mm Hg on the tissues, this increase of venous pressure is negated and the circulation improved.(Thomas S. 2003).

Clearly it follows that in an arterial ulcer, as there is a reduction in the arterial pressure at the arterial end of the capillary bed, any increase in physical pressure could further reduce the blood flow across the capillary bed, which is why it is vital to differentiate between the two types before applying the bandage.(Marston W et al. 2003).

The second main nursing intervention, and possibly more beneficial in the longer term, would be the Health Promotion aspects of the nursing relationship. Mrs Singh is overweight. Her BMI is about 29 which means that her weight is not only contributing to the reduction in venous return, and thereby contributing to both the aetiology and the persistence of her ulcer, but the obesity is also a major factor in the aetiology of her Type II diabetes mellitus. If Mrs Singh can be persuaded to reduce her weight, her need for hypoglycaemic medication may well lessen. It is possible that it may reduce to the point that she could manage her condition on diet alone. (Terry T-K et al 2003).

Smoking is not only an independent risk factor for Type II diabetes mellitus, but it is also a risk factor for cardiovascular disease. A major health promotion measure would therefore be to help Mrs Singh to give up smoking. This is not a short term measure, so is not particularly suited for hospital intervention, although the nursing staff spent a considerable amount of time with Mrs Singh to explain the problems associated with smoking. (Marks-Moran & Rose 1996).

On discharge she was referred to, and seen by, the smoking cessation nurse at the local primary healthcare team. The whole concept of patient empowerment and education is most important in this field. If a patient understands why they are being asked to do something, they are much more likely to comply with the request from the healthcare professional (Marinker M.1997).

The weight reduction needs to be carefully managed if it is to be successful. She was referred to the dietician who prescribed a low fat, carbohydrate regulated, 1,200 cal. per day diet. Because this is clearly going to be a long term intervention, arrangements were made for Mrs Singh to be followed up in the community dietetic clinic.

Mrs Singh was in hospital for seven days when the multidisciplinary discharge team were able to arrange her discharge. This involved the assistance of an occupational therapist to assist with minor home modifications and the community nurses who continued the treatment with the 4 layer bandage.

(Harrison, I. D et al 2005) The diabetic specialist nurse was also involved. As Mrs Singh's weight slowly reduced she was able to reduce and finally come off her hypoglycaemic medication.