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Parkinson’s disease (PD) is one of the most prevalent neurological disorders, leading to progressive disability that can be slowed, but not stopped, by treatment. 

Recent evidence has highlighted that Parkinson’s education for nursing students is often limited. In recognition of this gap in our nursing education, I was part of a team that co-developed a podcast about the disease.  

The number of people diagnosed with PD in the UK is about 145,000

How common is Parkinson’s?

The number of people diagnosed with PD in the UK is about 145,000, and more than one million people in the UK are affected as a friend, colleague or family member of someone living with the condition.

The disease is characterised by tremors, slow movements, stiffness in arms and legs, and balance impairment, but not all people with Parkinson’s disease present with every possible symptom.

Like other chronic and progressive disabling diseases, PD patients experience stigma arising from symptoms that are impossible to hide, and experience relational and communication issues.  

Fostering empathy

The team that produced the podcast was made up of nursing students at Queen’s University Belfast, members of academic staff, people living with PD, caregivers, and PD nurse specialists.  

Sophie Crooks

Above: Sophie Crooks, who helped develop the podcast on PD

Our main aim was to give a voice to people with PD, as well as their caregivers and nurse specialists so the podcast features students hosting interviews with these people.

We used questionnaires before and after listening to the podcast to see how nursing student knowledge changed. Results showed that students scored an average of 52% before listening and 85% after.

People with Parkinson's experience stigma arising from symptoms that are impossible to hide 

Our research from focus groups with student listeners found the podcast has helped foster empathy about living with PD and highlight the small things they could do in practice to improve care. This included being patient, using a slower pace and paying careful consideration to the time-sensitive nature of medication administration.

Spread the word

I was so inspired by the impact of this work I’ve since been successful in gaining an all-Ireland PhD scholarship to continue working in the field of PD at Queen’s University Belfast.

I look forward to continuing to play my part in raising awareness about PD. Maybe you can play your part too?  Do give our ‘Learn about Parkinson’s Podcast’ a listen – you’ll find it as a professional resource on the Parkinson’s UK website, and please do share with fellow nursing students.

Sophie Crooks helped develop the podcast while she was a nursing student at Queen’s University Belfast. You can find Sophie on Twitter @SophieCrooksRN
Main image: getty

Further resources

  • Find out more about Parkinson’s on RCN Learn, which brings you the latest nursing, social and health care learning resources from the RCN and RCNi.
  • Visit Parkinson’s UK to find a wealth of information about PD.
  • Join the RCN Neurosciences Forum.

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