Nurses account for by far the largest proportion of all health practitioners. Much of their time is spent on care of the skin, but this fact is not reflected by proportion of time allocated to the topic in undergraduate nursing curricula. Specialist dermatological nursing groups around the world are collaborating to change this.

Dermatologists worldwide are gradually acknowledging the crucial role that nursing has to play in strategic planning of skin care services. To draw attention to the significance of skin related health needs and build up a capacity to respond as a health care team, it is necessary to achieve a united voice from all key health professionals on the level of suffering, disability and poverty created by skin disease. Nurses have a key role to play in developing appropriate community-based skin care services around the world. They possess key observations and knowledge to contribute to the International Society of Dermatology’s Task Force for Community Dermatology. They have the capacity needed to meet global skin care and dermatological needs, promoting wellbeing and quality of life, whether supporting those living with chronic dermatoses or the infestations and infections that have a major impact in resource-poor countries.

By virtue of their caring skills and knowledge and their accessibility for those needing healthcare, nurses are at the centre of providing patient focused care. They must be supported and encouraged to achieve the best healthcare we can deliver.

Warning In many instances, undergraduate nurse training around the world does not recognise the importance of educating nurses to care for the physical and psychological wellbeing of those who have skin care needs. There is also a fundamental lack of recognition of the importance of understanding the concept of skin heath within a public health context.

Action Undergraduate nurses’ curricula must include skin health within each level of the life trajectory be these children, teenagers or older adults. In Primary Health the nurse can and must be trained to a high level to become responsible for the carrying out of triage of skin health needs, ensuring that patients are seen in a timely manner by appropriately trained healthcare professionals, including nurses, in an appropriate setting.

Contributed by Rebecca Penzer-Hick, Senior Clinical Lecturer, Centre of Postgraduate Medicine and Public Health, University of Hertfordshire.

"I’m currently training as a nurse and have wanted to since I was treated so well by a nurse when I was little. Helping establish health centres in developing worlds is something I’m passionate about."