A rheumatology nurse cares for patients suffering from rheumatic diseases, a position that requires various special skills and traits. Rheumatic diseases, or rheumatism, consist of conditions that affect the joints and muscles, generally inducing swelling, inflammation and pain. The University of Mary reports more than 100 such diseases currently exist, although the position of a rheumatology nurse is relatively new to the nursing industry.
Skills and Qualities
Skills and qualities required for a successful career as a rheumatology nurse are outlined by the University of Mary and the U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics.
•Research skills. Because the field of nursing rheumatology is rather new and advances are being made on a constant basis, it is essential for nurses in the field to stay abreast of the latest research and development. They may need to conduct their own research to remain current, as well as discover important information to assist their patients.
•Organizational skills. Keeping track of the various patients, treatments and records require a strict attention to detail, as well as well-developed organizational skills. Nurses must also be able to effectively administer the proper treatments and medications, tasks that require both acute organization and detail-orientation.
•Communication skills. Communication with colleagues, patients and patients’ families is vital for any treatment plan to be successful. They may also be responsible for communicating a patient’s needs to others. Oral and written communication skills are highly valuable, and both should produce clear, concise and easily understood results.
•Extremely specific anatomical knowledge. Extensive knowledge of parts of the human anatomy affected by rheumatism is a must in the field. This includes an extremely specialized knowledge of the muscles, joints and bones where the diseases usually manifest. They must also be able to recognize the warning signs and symptoms of rheumatic and autoimmune diseases.
•Flexibility. Rheumatology nurses need the ability to adapt to various work settings, which can range from private rheumatology practices to general hospitals. Adaptability is also necessary to try a variety of treatments if necessary, as the field is new and constantly advancing and growing.
•Intuition. Getting a feel for the most effective treatments to administer is not a skill that can be necessarily learned from a book, but one that can be developed with experience. Intuitively knowing what treatments may or may not be the most effective course of action for a particular rheumatology patient can mean the difference between immediate relief and continued suffering.
•Decisiveness. The ability to make decisions is another must in a field where advanced treatments and new research are constantly emerging. Taking a stand based on intuition, extensive knowledge and experience in past scenarios can help a patient obtain effective treatment as rapidly as possible. Critical-thinking skills are part of being decisive, as a decision may rest on the ability to quickly weigh the benefits and detriments of a particular action or treatment.
•Compassion. A caring and sympathetic nature is vital for making patients and their families feel at ease and realize that you are aware and empathetic of the difficulties they may be facing.
Rheumatology nurses carry out various duties in their line of work, according to the University of Mary.
•Provide care, support and treatment for patients suffering from rheumatism
•Help patients manage symptoms and pain levels
•Suggest lifestyle changes that can decrease the intensity of the disease or its symptoms
•Take blood samples
•Monitor blood work
•Administer medical and monitor medication levels
•Operate and monitor medical equipment
•Manage patient pain levels
•Track symptoms and treatment developments
•Record patient medical histories
•Perform physical exams
•Assist with creating treatment plans or following existing ones
•Monitor or assist with physical therapy programs
•Outline treatment plans to patients and families, answering questions and concerns
•Educate patients and their families on strategies to manage discomfort and pain
Rheumatology nurses require at least an Associate of Science in Nursing (ASN) and passing the NCLEX-RN, or national licensing exam. Nurses must also obtain a license from the state in which they wish to work. University of Mary recommends a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) to further enhance a rheumatology nursing career.