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Open Access Research article

Roles and relationships between health professionals involved in insulin initiation for people with type 2 diabetes in the general practice setting: a qualitative study drawing on relational coordination theory

Jo-Anne Manski-Nankervis1*, John Furler1, Irene Blackberry1, Doris Young1, David O’Neal2 and Elizabeth Patterson3

Author Affiliations

1 General Practice and Primary Health Care Academic Centre, University of Melbourne, Carlton, Victoria

2 Department of Medicine, St Vincent’s Hospital, Fitzroy, Victoria

3 Department of Nursing, Melbourne School of Health Sciences, University of Melbourne, Carlton, Victoria

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BMC Family Practice 2014, 15:20  doi:10.1186/1471-2296-15-20

Published: 31 January 2014

Abstract

Background

The majority of care for people with type 2 diabetes occurs in general practice, however when insulin initiation is required it often does not occur in this setting or in a timely manner and this may have implications for the development of complications. Increased insulin initiation in general practice is an important goal given the increasing prevalence of type 2 diabetes and a relative shortage of specialists. Coordination between primary and secondary care, and between medical and nursing personnel, may be important in achieving this. Relational coordination theory identifies key concepts that underpin effective interprofessional work: communication which is problem solving, timely, accurate and frequent and relationships between professional roles which are characterized by shared goals, shared knowledge and mutual respect. This study explores roles and relationships between health professionals involved in insulin initiation in order to gain an understanding of factors which may impact on this task being carried out in the general practice setting.

Method

21 general practitioners, practice nurses, diabetes nurse educators and physicians were purposively sampled to participate in a semi-structured interview. Transcripts of the interviews were analysed using framework analysis.

Results

There were four closely interlinked themes identified which impacted on how health professionals worked together to initiate people with type 2 diabetes on insulin: 1. Ambiguous roles; 2. Uncertain competency and capacity; 3. Varying relationships and communication; and 4. Developing trust and respect.

Conclusions

This study has shown that insulin initiation is generally recognised as acceptable in general practice. The role of the DNE and practice nurse in this space and improved communication and relationships between health professionals across organisations and levels of care are factors which need to be addressed to support this clinical work. Relational coordination provides a useful framework for exploring these issues.

Keywords:
Relational coordination; General practice; Insulin initiation; Type 2 diabetes; Roles