With their ability to provide treatment and manage chronic illnesses, nurse practitioners can aid patients with rheumatic diseases through their education and training. Nurse practitioners are registered nurses with additional education and training at the Master’s or doctorate level who can collaborate with rheumatologists to the benefit of a patient’s health.
Rheumatology practices that employ advanced practice providers, such as nurse practitioners, have the ability to care for more patients. As a nurse practitioner at Gundersen Health System in Onalaska, Wis., Janet Bahr, MSN, APNP, RN-BC, performs many of the same tasks as rheumatologists. She collects patient histories, performs examinations and diagnoses, and designs care plans and discusses those plans with patients.
“I can ensure the timely care of patients,” Ms. Bahr says. “I can help fill the gaps when there are patients waiting for appointments and not enough rheumatologists to see them in a timely manner. This can help relieve the workload.”
While a rheumatologist sees new patients, Ms. Bahr sees patients for routine follow up. She also sees patients who are referred for osteoarthritis or fibromyalgia independently. “This frees up rheumatologists to see other patients,” she says.
However, if a patient has complex medical issues, a rheumatologist may still need to see them or advise on their case. These patients may alternate between the nurse practitioner and rheumatologist during their appointments. “Patients usually value [when] they have us both involved in their care,” Ms. Bahr says.
Patients seen by Linda Rodamaker, RN, MSN, ANP, an adult nurse practitioner at the University of Colorado in Aurora, Colo., typically alternate between seeing her with seeing with a rheumatologist. When she sees patients, multiple rheumatologists are available for her to consult with and to see patients as needed.
“Many rheumatology patients have chronic illnesses and need lifelong care,” Ms. Rodamaker says. “Nurse practitioners are well versed in caring for many patient needs. Not only can they provide medical care, but they can offer care for other aspects of life, such as social, psychological and emotional support.”
Ms. Bahr excels in helping patients with chronic diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis, manage their disease by developing a rapport with them. She gets to know patients well and establishes strong relationships with them. She also directs patients to community resources.
The educational curriculum for nurse practitioners includes courses in advanced health assessment, physiology, advanced pathophysiology, pharmacology, advanced therapeutics and specialty preparation, as well as research methodology and use.1