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Anaemia

Updated 25 June 2019

Test reveals nurses more likely to be anaemic than rest of population

Two out of ten nurses may have iron deficiency anaemia, a test at a major UK nursing conference discovered.

A UK-based finger-prick blood test tested 400 nurses for the most common type of anaemia at this year’s Royal College of Nursing congress (RCN), reports the Nursing Times. The results indicate that 15–20% were found to have iron deficiency anaemia, without being aware of the fact. This prevalence rate is higher than in the rest of the male and female population, with the exception of pregnant women.

The test was led by Professor Toby Richards and his research team from University College London in Liverpool in May 2019. 

Performance affected

Richards and his team also asked RCN members to fill out a questionnaire to find out the possible causes of their anaemia. These included:

  • Heavy menstrual bleeding
  • Being vegetarian or vegan
  • Having recently given birth

Richards raised the point that women are more likely to be anaemic, and that one should consider that the profession is female-dominated. Nurses were also likely to be blood donors, with 20% of donors being in the healthcare industry.

Having a high anaemia rate among nurses might negatively impact on their performance at work, said Richards. “That’s one in six to eight nurses potentially under-performing while being the population that should be advising others,” he added. The team told Nursing Times that the results are concerning, especially when considering that nurses are already performing under a great deal of pressure.

Following these findings, Richards said that more needed to be done to educate nurses about the condition, especially because they are the ones giving medical and health advice to the general public.

South African nurses also overworked

Although no tests to determine the iron deficiency levels among South African nurses have been carried out, last year there were reports of the profession experiencing critical staff shortages, leading to nurses being overworked, particularly at public health facilities. This was in spite of thousands of nurses being unemployed.

Short-staffed hospitals and the appalling conditions they work under leave nurses feeling frustrated and “sick and tired”. One nurse told IOL that four nurses often had to attend to 100 patients. The Citizen reported that an estimated 18% of South African Nursing Council (SANC)-registered nurses aren't practising due to poor working conditions, while some work two jobs in both the public and private sector, so that they can make ends meet.

Since iron deficiency anaemia has a significant impact on lifelong health, if it is found that a high percentage of South African nurses also have the condition, raising awareness and taking steps to ensure nurses aren't overworked is crucial to ensuring maximum productivity.   

Image: iStock