Chair of The Royal College of Nursing’s Neuroscience Forum
People with long-term neurological conditions can live active and fulfilling lives. However, they can experience ‘flare-ups’ or relapses and a deterioration in both physical health and mental health.
The unpredictability of neurological conditions can prove very frustrating to people, and no two people will follow the same course – though many will have similar symptoms. Some may remain at home with support and others may require hospital admission during the course of their life.
Innovations in technology and specialist medication
In all of these circumstances however, nurses are pivotal in enabling people to manage their conditions. This may involve nurses with specialist skills in neuroscience as well as nursing staff with a range of other skills.
In recent years there have been many technologies and specialist medication which can help to prevent deterioration and improve the lives of people with long term neurological conditions. Timely access and specialist knowledge are crucial to gain the maximum effect of these treatments and innovations.
Nurses are pivotal in enabling people to manage their conditions. This may involve nurses with specialist skills in neuroscience as well as nursing staff with a range of other skills.
The role of the specialist nurse
There is a common thread through all of this, the specialist nurse role. These nurses, like all nurses, are highly skilled professionals and can provide support throughout someone’s disease trajectory. They have an in-depth knowledge of their area of expertise and are often the key figure for people to contact for advice and support. They can also support and offer training to other healthcare professionals as well as carers and family members.
People with life limiting neurological conditions can require intensive support from many healthcare professionals due to the complexity of the disease. Again specialist support is critical to understand individual needs. Symptom management and control is crucial.
Helping use experience to make complex decisions
To become a specialist in this area can take a number of years. This is traditionally in addition to three years of the nursing degree course to become a Registered Nurse.
The experience I have gained from my many years in practice has enabled me to be proactive and make complex decisions in people’s homes, liaising with multiple agencies including GP’s, district nurses and carers to name a few.
As people live longer and diagnostic testing continues to improve, we will undoubtedly see more patients with neurological conditions. Treatment advances and future developments offer some real innovation and positive outcomes for patients. What is evident is the need for specialists in this area to ensure the best care and outcomes for those with neurological conditions.