Patient and staff education is the key to effectively handling emergencies and flares in rheumatic disease,” says Gail McIlvain-Simpson, MSN, RN, CS, an advanced practice nurse at Al DuPont Hospital for Children in Wilmington, Del.
On February 12, McIlvain-Simpson will present a rheumatology audioconference on emergencies and flares in rheumatic disease. The audioconference will explore ways to educate patients and administrative staff to delineate when a situation is a true emergency and how to take immediate and appropriate action to handle that emergency. This audioconference will benefit anyone who is involved in both pediatric and adult patient education or in phone triage.
“In rheumatic disease, the symptoms that indicate whether a situation is an emergency cannot be as easily identified and quantified as in many other diseases,” explains McIlvain-Simpson. “Therefore, educating those answering and responding to phone calls about what constitutes an emergency is extremely important. In addition, ensuring that patients trust that their calls are answered by someone who is knowledgeable about their disease can be a challenge.”
It is also important to teach staff to differentiate between an emergency patient and an emotional patient. “Many patients are understandably upset when they call for an emergency,” says McIlvain-Simpson. “It is necessary to quickly establish whether a situation is a true emergency and then either direct the patient to seek immediate medical attention or explain to the patient why their situation is not an emergency and guide them to the appropriate course of action.” Diversifying patient education materials is also an important way to make certain every patient understands the signs of an emergency or flare in rheumatic disease. For example, McIlvain-Simpson advocates for using a different technique for teaching children about the symptoms that indicate an emergency than for teaching adult or elderly patients.
“Children may be more responsive to multimedia, like video or computer games, than adults,” says McIlvain-Simpson. “And the elderly might need patient education brochures or pamphlets printed in a bigger type. It is important to understand your patient population and target your education accordingly.”
McIlvain-Simpson recognizes that for rheumatic disease, treatment and management usually require multiple visits. She believes this presents an opportunity to develop a trusting relationship with patients and provide continuous education about the signs and symptoms of an emergency or flare. In her role at Al DuPont Hospital for Children, she also teaches children with rheumatic disease about their condition and prepares children for managing their disease when they reach adulthood.
“The nature of rheumatic disease makes creating the guidelines for the signs and symptoms of emergencies somewhat difficult,” says McIlvain-Simpson. “So it is even more important to utilize various means of educating patients and staff to make sure the information is widely available.”