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In this wide-ranging interview, British Society for Rheumatology (BSR) Head of Education Daisy Southam looks back at a year of the competency framework for rheumatology specialist nurses, and also to the future.

What is the framework and why does it matter?

Standards of care for nursing are developed and defined by the Royal College for Nursing (RCN). However, nothing existed in relation to evidence-based care, competencies and role development for nurses working in rheumatology, which can be off-putting for those considering joining the specialty.

Because of this, a new framework was developed by RCN’s rheumatology forum and endorsed by British Society for Rheumatology (BSR) to support specialist nurse career development, improve patient care and provide leadership opportunities. Many BSR members input into writing the framework, peer reviewing, disseminating it and engaging with the wider nursing audience.

This framework’s necessary for specialist nurses in rheumatology to do their job well. Rheumatology trainees have a curriculum to ensure they get all the training that they need, so why don’t nurses and physiotherapists?

Read about the launch of the framework

Key developments and achievements

A key achievement since the launch of the framework has been the ongoing development of our education course programme for specialist nurses in rheumatology. We’ve worked hard to ensure content aligns with the framework, fosters excellence and reflects the high-quality standards of care RCN identified.

The course provides nurses with the training and tools to develop their current roles and work towards the next stage in their careers; you can make great progress on your personal development by attending. The course has also been a key opportunity for the framework to be disseminated to the specialist nurse community.

Another key development is our work supporting the RCN in disseminating the framework further through our webinar education programme in collaboration with Lilly UK. As a partnership, we’ve had more opportunity to engage with the framework outside of our membership base, with 350 rheumatology specialist nurses and allied health professionals registering to attend the two webinars we delivered in 2020.

The RCN Rheumatology Forum produced an initial data report in February 2021 to identify the number of people who viewed and/or downloaded the RCN Rheumatology Nurse Competency Framework, and to assess the impact of the dissemination strategy. The data from this report showcases that our education programme has had a positive impact on raising awareness, informing value and improving the reach of the framework in the rheumatology nursing community.

Read the data report

What’s next?

Feedback from our membership and education course attendees shows that it’s made a positive impact so far, and that other specialist groups like physiotherapists want to follow in its footsteps. For the future, we’ll continue raising awareness, creating more engagement and supporting implementation across all rheumatology units, aiming to make sure everyone’s adopting it in the same way. We’ll also look at delivering a framework and similar success for physiotherapists too – but we’re in the early stages of this project.

Now people have a framework to work towards, there are defined standards of care, there is also an understanding of how to get to higher level bands and feel empowered and understood within the workplace. We’ll work with the RCN and the national chairpersons in the devolved nations to try and raise the framework’s profile there.

We're also committed to continuing to develop and improve our educational programme for rheumatology specialist nurses, with a focus being on creating more digital learning content for the audience this year. We’re proud of our members for the work that they put into developing the framework and as official endorsers we want to support the implementation and measurement of impact further.

The next part of this continued evaluation by the RCN is to hear from as many nurses working in rheumatology services as possible so that the RCN can establish the value and relevance of the competency framework and accompanying templates.

Please fill in the survey by 23:00 on 11 April and provide your feedback and experience of how the framework's supported your role and personal development.

Complete the survey