9 January 2018
Just before Christmas the MS Society caught up with Jenny Richardson and Joanna Smith at Richmond Rehabilitation Unit. Both are MS nurses providing a specialist nursing service to anyone living with MS in the London Borough of Richmond.
I started by asking them how and why they became MS nurses.
Jenny: “I decided to go into nursing after I did a GNVQ (general national vocational qualification) in health and social care, I then ended up going to university to study adult nursing and I qualified 12 years ago. I then went in to district nursing as my passion was really in the community. I liked seeing people in their own homes and having that different relationship with patients and their families instead of being on a hospital ward.
“When I saw the MS nurse job advertised two years ago I thought I’d apply and was successful. I had an interest in neurological conditions in general and I had decided that MS was one of the streams that I wanted to focus on. I’d suddenly had this desire to learn about the brain and how important it was.”
Joanna: “I trained in nursing as a mature student as I had a totally different career in my twenties. I then went into community nursing and worked as a district nurse for several years where I had some patients with neurological conditions.
“When I saw the MS Nurse job I thought it could be really interesting and I’ve now been here for a year. I find it really interesting as there are lots of aspects you can help people with; social, medical, and emotional. When you have a specialist role rather than a general role you really have the time to spend with patients.”
The role of an MS nurse is very different to nurses who work in hospitals. They offer an important support system for people with MS, seeing patients in the rehab unit and at home, taking a more holistic approach and covering all aspects of the disease.
Jenny: “What we do here is very different to what’s provided by the hospitals in that we supply a very sound support system. When people come to see us we always make sure they’re given an hour.”
Joanna: “We work as part of a multidisciplinary team here, physios, OTs, dieticians, neuro-psychologists, speech and language therapists, who we can go to for advice and support.”
Jenny and Joanna both work three days a week spending time seeing patients either in the clinic or at home if they unable to travel for any reason. Once a month they run an evening clinic so that people who work can get to them out of hours. They also run a fatigue course, (FACETS), and are looking at running different support groups such as the “Getting to Grips” course for people who are newly diagnosed, talking about different symptoms they might encounter and the different services and treatments that are available.
They are able to refer patients to local social services if they need any adaptations at home or if carers need social assistance. They have access to RRRT, (Richmond Response and Rehabilitation Team), an integrated health and social care service for adults who can provide rapid response care and help people who are being discharged from hospital.
I finished by asking Jenny and Joanna about their thoughts on the future of treatments for people with MS.
Joanne: “Going into the future I feel very positive about things. There are some new DMTs on the verge of coming out and that’s really exciting. Patients are beginning to have stem cell treatment now and although it’s early days there’s a lot that can be learnt from that.”
Jenny: “I find it extremely exciting, they’re discovering a lot of unknown factors that could influence or cause MS. Any little piece that’s uncovered gets you more excited and leads onto different things. There’s a lot of money being pumped into it now and I think it’s really positive for those being diagnosed with MS.”
Positive indeed! Anyone with a confirmed diagnosis of MS who has a Richmond-based GP is able to see the MS Nurses at Richmond Rehabilitation Unit.