Nurses work in a variety of settings including inpatients, clinics and the community. The main aim of the role is to enable patients to maintain their physical, psychological and social functioning. This aim is achieved through a variety of role aspects:
- Patient education: Assessing individual need and providing education to enable patients to learn about self-management of symptoms including pain, stiffness and fatigue. This process can involve family members
- Supporting patients at the time of diagnosis and providing ongoing psychological support: A detailed explanation can reduce anxiety and fear. During the course of the condition patients can experience a low mood state affecting their confidence, self-esteem and relationships with other people. The nurse can provide expert support and advise to improve psychological function.
- Drug counselling and monitoring: This involves obtaining the patients’ beliefs prior to commencing drug treatment and providing information on the benefits and potential side effects of treatment to enable the patient to have informed choice regarding their care. The nurse often takes a central role in drug monitoring either carrying out this function or initiating it in another care setting
- Co-ordinating care: The individual assessment of the patient’s physical, psychological and social needs may identify that the patient would benefit from the expertise of another member of the team e.g. occupational therapy to assist with activities of daily living. This can be arranged with the nurse acting as the co-ordinator of care need
- Running a telephone help-line: This provides patients and health professionals with access to an expert nurse who can provide advice of all aspects of care.
- Assessment, administration and ongoing management of patients receiving biologic and cytotoxic therapy
- Running nurse-led clinics often for patients with rheumatoid arthritis. This involves assessing the effectiveness of the current management plan, changing treatment where indicated and providing ongoing education and psychological support
Patients with rheumatological conditions have physical, psychological and social needs. The nurse works in conjunction with other members of the multi-disciplinary team to ensure these needs are addressed.