In January 2019 I took up a new position as Professor of Rheumatology Nursing, the result of an innovative funding partnership between the Midlands Partnership NHS Foundation Trust and the Haywood Foundation. I have worked in rheumatology nursing for over 30 years so to have this opportunity to focus on developing patient research and education was very exciting and I want to share with you two of the projects I have been involved in
The first project relates to a research study to explore the experiences of people living with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) on physical, psychological, and social wellbeing during the pandemic. Two lay members of the Haywood Foundation were involved in this project. The study involved interviewing 15 people with RA at 3 time points during the pandemic. The results identified the major impact on mental health and social wellbeing. A constant fear, for people, was the possibility of contracting COVID-19, a fear which was increased by receiving correspondence from the government, general practitioners and the rheumatology department confirming an increased vulnerability for COVID-19 and the need for many patients to shield (self isolate).
The impact of not seeing family and friends increased as the pandemic progressed and left many people feeling isolated which also, understandably, impacted on mood. The study raises important issues for those providing healthcare to people with RA, including the need for effective communication with awareness of its likely impact in increasing fear, and recognition of the potential for social isolation especially given the challenges of none face to face communication. Patients may have benefitted from access to resources to manage fear and the use of volunteers to provide telephone support may have helped to reduce some of the isolation experienced.
The second project involved working with the National Rheumatoid Arthritis Society (NRAS) to develop an online module on ‘Managing pain and flares’. People with RA can find it challenging to manage joint pain and often feel incapacitated when their symptoms flare. Colleagues from the rheumatology department at the Haywood Hospital (including a rheumatologist, a physiotherapist, an occupational therapist, a podiatrist and myself) were filmed providing information on how to manage this aspect of RA. The module can be found on the NRAS website (www.nras.org.uk/selfmanagement and www.nras.org.uk/smile) and to date has already been viewed over 500 times.
More projects are in the pipeline so watch this space….