Kate* suffered for years from chronic pain, and more recently it began affecting her everyday life. She was only in her early 30s; however, her body was not cooperating, and she was unable to do the normal daily activities she once found so easy. The little things like laundry, dishes, or errands now took so much out of her. If she completed a chore, she then had to lay down, and her bones screamed at her for relief. Even her nightly walks and the crafting she once loved were no longer part of her life.
The chronic pain affected Kate’s relationships, and she simply felt like no one understood. When she went to her follow-up appointment with her physician, she was given the diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis. She didn’t know much about this condition; she was scared and unsure of the future. Then, Kate’s doctor started her on a new medication. This one was an injectable, and she feared both having to self-inject this medicine at home and the potential side effects.
One day, Kate got a phone call from a Clinical Nurse Educator (CNE) whose job it was to provide education and support to patients taking this particular drug. The CNE explained she would be calling Kate to check in on her and to help her learn more about not only her new medication, but also about her condition and several practical ways she would learn to help herself. Kate was intrigued, and she agreed. Kate’s CNE continued to follow up with her during scheduled interactions, and she felt comfortable reporting issues and asking questions. Then, the CNE would encourage her and provide her with new ways to be more proactive in her own health.
As months passed, not only was Kate feeling better, but she felt empowered by the information she was taught. She learned about how to use nutrition to combat inflammation and what foods could potentially affect her arthritis or flares. She learned about the best exercises she could do that would work most muscle groups but have the least amount of joint damage. But, by far, the best support she got was the emotional support from her nurse and the encouragement to press on and give the medication time to work. Kate often said, “no one else has ever taken this kind of time to help me with my condition.”
As the Clinical Nurse Educator in this story, I had the privilege of watching Kate go from worrier to warrior. Not only was I able to see the positive impact the medication had on her life, I saw Kate “come to life” as she was able to emotionally work through her everyday life with rheumatoid arthritis. Our job as Clinical Educators is to equip patients with the tools they need to move forward – no matter what their condition or extent of symptoms. By listening to a patient’s true needs, I am able to suggest small, measurable goals for them to work toward. It is so rewarding when you hear the positive impact that comes from the new information patients receive from their Clinical Educators. Stories like these are what continues to push me to learn new ways to empower patients in their health journey.
* This story represents a compilation of actual experiences encountered in my role as a Clinical Nurse Educator. Kate is a fictitious name representing the patients described.