A Rheumatology nurse is a nurse who works with patients who suffer from rheumatic diseases. Rheumatic diseases include over 100 different documented diseases that affect the joints and muscles. Thus, these nurses must have a comprehensive knowledge of anatomy and physiology as well as pain management strategies. They must also know how to help their patients with symptoms like swollen joints and limbs and restricted movement.
Skills of a Rheumatology Nurse
The American College of Rheumatology has outlined several criteria that should be met by Rheumatology nurses. Ideally, these nurses should be able to work with patients who are experiencing the following symptoms:
•Issues with self confidence
In order to help patients who are experiencing the above symptoms as part of their rheumatoid disease, a Rheumatology nurse needs to be trained in pain management options. They need to know how to help their patients learn new methods of self care and self management. These nurses should also have strong communication skills, and they should be willing to work with other healthcare providers to create a comprehensive treatment plan for their patients.
Patient Evaluation Skills
One of the most important duties of a Rheumatology nurse is patient evaluation. These nurses need to understand the how to spot symptoms that is associated with rheumatoid diseases. To help prevent misdiagnosis, they should also understand other illnesses whose symptoms may mimic rheumatoid issues.
While diagnosing patients, Rheumatology nurses will be responsible for the following types of things:
•Differentiating different levels of pain, stiffness, and exhaustion
•Outlining the patient’s previous medication use so that they have a clear picture of the patient’s reactions to a medication and how efficient a particular drug was for that patient
•Identifying issues like lack of sleep, poor nutrition or personal problems that may increase the amount of pain the patient is experiencing
•Detecting alterations in the patient’s behavior that may indicate a change in the disease itself
In order to evaluate their patients, Rheumatology nurses must be able to perform exams. These exams allow the nurse to create a comprehensive picture of the patient’s symptoms and thus of their disease.
Developing a Treatment Plan
Once a Rheumatology nurse has evaluated his or her patient, he or she will need to create a treatment plan for them. The plan will need to address specific issues that the patient has, and it will need to involve creating a monitoring schedule to assess the patient’s ongoing condition. In order to develop and execute a treatment plan, a Rheumatology nurse will need the following skills:
•Ability to perform a toxicity screening
•Ability to use accepted Rheumatology assessment spectrums
•Knowledge of therapy methods that will help the patient to maintain or boost their functioning levels
•Willingness to learn about alternative therapy methods and their efficacy
•Sensitivity in working with patients and their families who need help dealing with a family member with chronic illnesses
•Ability to educate the patient about community resources that may help them in their journey toward self sufficiency
•Team working skills that allow them to work with other healthcare workers to develop a efficient treatment plan
Outlook for Rheumatology Nurses
The Rheumatology field for nurses is fairly new. However, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the outlook for nursing in general is positive. This industry is expected to grow by at least 26% over the next ten years. This growth is faster than most other industries. Currently, there are only 5,000 nurses who specialize in Rheumatology. However, this number is expected to grow at an incredibly high rate due to the aging population and a general increase in autoimmune diseases. Due to the growth in this industry, most Rheumatology nurses can expect to earn more than their counterparts who do not specialize in Rheumatology. A regular nurse earns an average yearly salary of about $64,000 per year, but a Rheumatology nurse can expect to earn more than that on average. However, wages vary drastically depending on location, experience, and employer.