Jane Brough

Jane Brough

Clinical Nurse Specialist, Rheumatology, Te Whatu Ora, Taranaki Base Hospital

Tory Garnham from the Arthritis Assist Team visited Taranaki health professionals during her trip to the region to raise awareness about the Arthritis Assist service. One of the goals was to empower health providers who provide support as best they can to their patients, by providing them with valuable resources from Arthritis NZ – Mateponapona Aotearoa to use to help their patients live well and thrive despite their condition. One of these health professionals was Jane Brough, Clinical Nurse Specialist, Rheumatology, Te Whatu Ora, Taranaki Base Hospital.

What does your role as a rheumatology nurse in Taranaki involve?

I work closely with rheumatologists and other healthcare professionals to provide comprehensive care to patients with inflammatory arthritis and other autoimmune conditions. I assess and monitor patients, administer treatments, educate patients and their families and support them in managing their condition and maintaining their quality of life. I am the only rheumatology nurse employed in the Taranaki region and I have over 1600 patients. 

What are the most common conditions that you encounter?

The most common would be Rheumatoid Arthritis, but there is a huge range of conditions we see patients with Psoriatic Arthritis, Ankylosing Spondylitis, Lupus, Scleroderma and many more. These conditions can vary widely in their symptoms, severity and treatment approaches, so it’s important for us to have a comprehensive understanding of each condition to provide personalised care to our patients.

How do you help patients manage their symptoms and maintain their quality of life?

As holistically as I can, managing inflammatory arthritis involves a multi-faceted approach. We focus on a combination of medication management, patient education, lifestyle modifications and symptom management techniques. Medication prescribed by rheumatologists can help relieve pain and inflammation. Patient education plays a crucial role in helping patients understand their condition, treatment options and self-management techniques. We also encourage patients to adopt healthy lifestyle habits such as, regular exercise and stress management. Additionally, we assist patients in accessing additional resources like physical therapy or occupational therapy to improve their overall functioning.

How do you support patients who may be dealing with the emotional and psychological impact of living with an inflammatory condition?

I try and support where I can and I encourage open communication, allowing patients to express their concerns, fears, frustrations, I can refer my patients to counselling and I encourage my patients to join support groups like you have at Arthritis NZ. We educate patients about stress management techniques, relaxation exercises and other self-care strategies to help improve their overall wellbeing.

What advice do you have for patients who are newly diagnosed?

For patients who are newly diagnosed, it’s crucial to understand that they are not alone in their journey. I would advise them to seek out information about their condition from reliable sources, such as Arthritis NZ and medical professionals. Build a strong support network including health providers, family and friends. It’s important for patients to ask questions, voice their concerns and actively partake in their own health care. Lastly, I would encourage them to take things one step at a time, be patient with themselves and focus on self-care and overall wellbeing.

As a health care professional how do you stay up to date with the latest developments in rheumatology?

I listen to a lot of podcasts and read research from overseas. I also love to attend conferences but this isn’t always possible due to lack of funding.

How difficult is it not to have a full-time rheumatologist on hand and you being the only rheumatology nurse here?

In Taranaki we have three rheumatologists serving the region. One of them is based in New Plymouth and is part time, the other two travel from Waikato and Auckland. As the only rheumatology nurse in the area, I have had to adapt to each specialist’s unique approach and then effectively communicate their diagnosis to the patients. Whenever I have the opportunity, I try and shadow them during appointments, learning from their expertise. I find it helpful to be able to observe them and it’s a great way to enhance my knowledge and skills in the field. However, it can be challenging to juggle the varying approaches and styles of each specialist. While I love my job, there are moments when I wish there was more of me to meet the growing demands of the patient population and I do worry that I am not enough.

“It’s great to see Arthritis NZ promoting awareness and education around living well with arthritis. As a rheumatology nurse, I am grateful for the support and resources provided by Arthritis NZ.  They will play a vital role in complementing the care we provide and empower patients to be active participants in their health journey.”

Jane Brough, Clinical Nurse Specialist, Rheumatology.

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