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Advances in Rheumatology Breed a New Nursing Specialty

January 2014

The study of rheumatic disease dates back to the early 1800s with the discovery of rheumatic fever. Since then, much has been learned about other rheumatic conditions – chronic conditions usually caused by inflammation and often characterized by swelling or joint and muscle pain – including rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, lupus and gout. The largest advances in treatment, however, came about in the late 1990s with the advent of new types of therapies.

dates back to the early 1800s with the discovery of rheumatic fever. Since then, much has been learned about other rheumatic conditions – chronic conditions usually caused by inflammation and often characterized by swelling or joint and muscle pain – including rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, lupus and gout. The largest advances in treatment, however, came about in the late 1990s with the advent of new types of therapies. - See more at: http://jjnursingnotes.com/JAN14/#sthash.84NnZPfI.dpuf
ThThe study of rheumatic disease dates back to the early 1800s with the discovery of rheumatic fever. Since then, much has been learned about other rheumatic conditions – chronic conditions usually caused by inflammation and often characterized by swelling or joint and muscle pain – including rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, lupus and gout. The largest advances in treatment, however, came about in the late 1990s with the advent of new types of therapies. - See more at: http://jjnursingnotes.com/JAN14/#sthash.84NnZPfI.dpuf

Nurses have always been involved in treating patients with rheumatic diseases, but the complexity of drug treatment options, their mechanisms of delivery and the comprehensive teaching that comes with providing patient care highlighted the need for a new specialty to emerge.

Recognizing the need for new qualified healthcare professionals in this field, a small group of passionate nurses had a vision to create a set of standards to educate and empower other nurses treating patients with rheumatic conditions. After a meeting to discuss this vision in 2006, they helped establish the Rheumatology Nurses Society (RNS) and immediately began developing strategies and objectives to move nurses forward.

In fall 2012, the American Nurses Association (ANA) Board of Directors announced that rheumatology nursing would officially be recognized as a nursing specialty, giving approval to standards of practice developed in conjunction with RNS.

“Becoming an officially recognized specialty was important because it showed that nurses are key members of the healthcare teams that provide care for patients with rheumatic diseases,” said Sheree C. Carter, RN, MSN, CNS, president of RNS and clinical assistant professor at the University of Alabama in Huntsville College of Nursing.

Among RNS’s main objectives is to uniformly educate rheumatology nurses on their newly developed standards of practice. To do this, the group is finalizing its core education curriculum, which is scheduled for release in April 2014. This curriculum will provide basic information on rheumatology and rheumatic disease, including overviews of the various disease states, medications and treatment options, as well as details on what specific short- or long-term nursing care would entail.

According to Carter, this curriculum will be important in explaining the intricate and varied nature of rheumatology. Nurses need to understand not only the basic structure and function of rheumatic diseases, but they also need to know the immunology. This can be very complex and individualized, as patients will often have other co-morbid conditions that will affect how they are treated.

“RA nurses typically work with patients with chronic co-morbid diseases,” said Carter. “For this reason, it is crucial for nurses to be equipped with the knowledge and resources to instruct patients on an ongoing basis to provide the best care possible.”

As new developments in technology and treatment move forward, it’s important for nurses to be ready to adapt and continue their education throughout their careers.

“Rheumatology is a field that changes very rapidly,” said Carter. “The new curriculum will cover a lot of ground, but we know that it will require continual updates and revisions to maintain its value over time.”

Because of the constantly evolving nature of rheumatology, Carter sees the specialty as an opportunity for nurses looking to take on leadership roles. In fact, according to an article published in the November 2012 issue of The Rheumatologist, rheumatology practices are turning more and more to nurse practitioners to fill the gap between the demand for and supply of rheumatologists.

“The advanced level of education and new developments in the rheumatology space create unique opportunities for nurses looking to make a difference in their workplace,” said Carter.

To learn more about the Rheumatology Nurses Society, visit www.rnsnetwork.org.

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