Rheumatology nurses work with patients with rheumatic diseases, which involves joints, muscles, and bones. These diseases can include lyme disease, lupus, myositis, rheumatoid arthritis, and spondylitis. On top of being these patient’s nurses, rheumatology nurses work as patient educators, advocates, and counselors, offering support and aiding them achieve optimal health and living conditions.
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A rheumatology nurse will have to be skilled at evaluating patients and identifying symptoms associated with rheumatologic diseases. Monitoring small changes in the patient is important, in case the disease has altered. Pain management is also an important part of their work. These nurses help develop and implement a treatment plan in collaboration with physicians, social workers, community resources, and occupational or physical therapists. Educating the patient is another important component, ensuring that they are aware of community resources, have some stress management and coping skills, and understand their medication.
In order to first become a registered nurse, you can either earn an associate degree in nursing (ADN) or associate of science in nursing (ASN), or you can earn a bachelor’s of science in nursing (BSN), or a diploma from a hospital nursing program. While an associate degree takes only two years and a diploma two to three, earning a four year degree in nursing from a college or university will make you much more competitive in the job market. However, earning a diploma or associate degree can be a stepping stone toward later earning a bachelor’s degree. And finally, if you already have a bachelor’s degree in a different field, you can earn an accelerated bachelor’s degree in nursing. A nursing program will include classes as well as clinical lab training in hospitals or clinics. Subjects covered will include chemistry, psychology, nutrition, anatomy, physiology, microbiology, as well as nursing. When you graduate from an accredited nursing program, you are eligible to take the NCLEX-RN, which is the National Council Licensure Examination. Earning a master’s degree in nursing would enable you to become a nurse educator in this profession or advance to become a rheumatology nurse practitioner.
The Rheumatology Nurses Society is a professional organization that can be a good resource as you begin your educational journey in this field. Once you have your degree, it can offer continuing education and networking opportunities. The median annual wage of a registered nurse is $62,450, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This will vary based on your location and experience, but it will climb higher with more specialized training and work experience.
Nursing is one of the fastest growing professions in an already booming healthcare job sector. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), it has been projected to grow at a rate of 22% in the period between 2008 and 2018. Nursing is also following the general trend in healthcare in becoming more and more specialized. Nurses with specialized training will have the greatest job prospects, and enjoy a career with more responsibility and more varied duties. Rheumatology is a fast-growing specialty as more and more discoveries are being made and research is being done in this disease state. If you think this specialty might interest you, take the first step and find the right nursing program to pursue your degree. If your are already a nurse or are in nursing school try finding an internship in rheumatology to see if it is a good fit for you. You might also try “shadowing” a rheumatology nurse for a day first to see if you like what they do.
(Sources: Rheumatology Nurses Society, American College of Rheumatology)