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Jan Revella, RN, arthritis nurse specialist and director of research and education at the Sonoran Spine Center in Phoenix, Ariz.

January 2014

Revella is the founder and director of Arthritis Education by Professionals, Inc., and creator of “Feeling Good with Arthritis,” a six-hour self-empowerment arthritis education course.

Q. How did you get involved with rheumatology?

A. I didn’t know much about rheumatology until I started working in an orthopaedic unit when I first became a nurse. Our primary type of surgery was total joint replacement, a surgery that is often standard for arthritis patients. I noticed how many of the patients were terrified about the surgery because they had little information about what to expect during and after the surgery and felt little control of their health.

Because of that, I started putting together classes for patients before and after the surgery, teaching them about their disease and what to expect from the surgery. The positive effect of the classes on patient outcomes was obvious – they felt more calm and in control because they understood the process.

Patient education was always one of the things that I liked most about nursing. In fact, it’s what initially attracted me to rheumatology care. Later in my career, when I started concentrating on arthritis, I expanded on my earlier work and developed education materials to help patients understand their disease and become knowledgeable about their treatment options. Now, I offer self-management classes and lead research at a spine center, studying surgical outpoints for people who have arthritis in their spine.

Q. How has nursing impacted your life?

A. Nursing is my joy in life. I graduated from nursing school in 1975, and I’ve been active ever since. I have never really taken much time off except for having a baby and a few vacations – I could, it is just that I have a great passion for what I do. I’m 61-years old, and I’m not retiring any time soon because I really, really love what I do!

Q. What are some common misconceptions about arthritis?

A. People sometimes think, “Oh, it is just arthritis.” But it is not just arthritis if you’re living with it. Arthritis is not just achy joints – it can be a debilitating disease. People tend to put everything in the same bucket, but there are over 100 types of rheumatic diseases.

On the patient side, many arthritis patients fear they will lose their independence if the disease continues to progress. This is simply not true if patients are proactive. Additionally, arthritis is very multi-faceted, and sometimes patients are confused about the wide range of symptoms and the actual damage that can occur.

Q. Why do you believe patient education is important?

A. I believe that patients are the head of their healthcare team. Patients should be in the driver seat and know the direction they are headed. Patients can take an active role in determining their treatment plan – information and understanding their disease empowers them.

As a nurse, I have the ability to translate the medical and technical facts of the disease in a clear way. I can also give patients concrete examples of things they can do to help their symptoms, such as moderate exercise, stretching or water aerobics. Rheumatology is complicated, but it can be understood.

Q. What are some of the rewarding aspects of rheumatology nursing?

A. I think rheumatology nurses develop a really unique relationship with their patients – their relationships are more long-term due to the chronic nature of rheumatic disease. Often, you even see patients grow up. I have a rheumatoid arthritis (RA) patient who had bilateral hip replacement at age 14, and I still know her today, more than 20 years later. It’s immensely rewarding to have those kinds of connections.

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