Policy briefing

Rheumatology nursing: your guide to the new RCN competency framework

Skills and career framework aims to support the development of rheumatology nurse roles

Skills and career framework aims to support the development of rheumatology nurse roles

Nurses are essential members of the rheumatology team Picture: John Houlihan

Essential information

Rheumatology deals with the investigation, diagnosis and management of patients with arthritis and musculoskeletal symptoms, acccording to the British Society for Rheumatology . It covers more than 200 conditions affecting bones, joints, muscles, connective tissues and the immune system.

Nurses are essential members of the rheumatology team and many undertake advanced practice roles, the RCN says . The college adds that a rheumatology nurse specialist is a highly complex job and may include roles in paediatric nursing, research, advanced level skills in clinical assessment, prescribing and providing intra-articular injections.

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Skills and career framework aims to support the development of rheumatology nurse roles

Nurses are essential members of the rheumatology team Picture: John Houlihan

Essential information

Rheumatology deals with the investigation, diagnosis and management of patients with arthritis and musculoskeletal symptoms, acccording to the British Society for Rheumatology. It covers more than 200 conditions affecting bones, joints, muscles, connective tissues and the immune system.

Nurses are essential members of the rheumatology team and many undertake advanced practice roles, the RCN says. The college adds that a rheumatology nurse specialist is a highly complex job and may include roles in paediatric nursing, research, advanced level skills in clinical assessment, prescribing and providing intra-articular injections.

Read more essential policy briefings

What’s new

The RCN rheumatology nursing forum has developed a competency and role development framework for rheumatology nurse specialists in clinical practice.

Until now there has been no national criteria or competency framework for these roles, and job titles and responsibilities have varied.

The RCN forum says the framework seeks to support the development of roles in rheumatology nursing, improve access for patients and reduce variability in care.

It is intended to strengthen rheumatology nursing and support recruitment, retention, sustainability, benchmarking and succession planning.

The RCN document provides clarity about the competence of those delivering care and their ability to deliver advanced levels of nursing in a range of care settings.

It should support solutions to some of the issues outlined by the British Society for Rheumatology in its 2019 State of Play report. This includes the need for education, training, supervision and workforce development for nurses in rheumatology.

The framework sets out the competencies that would be expected at different levels, including specialism-specific practitioners, advanced-level practitioners and consultant-level practitioners.

The knowledge and skills needed are listed in seven sections covering specialist knowledge, clinical assessment, disease management, communication, service delivery, governance and leadership.

Not all nurses will have yet met the competencies set out in the framework. While these competencies are being obtained, a pragmatic approach should be applied and senior nurses should be allowed to supervise others commensurate with their role, the document advises.

Regular reviews give the opportunity to discuss difficulties and resolve issues in achieving or maintaining competence. Realistic goals should be set at each review, with an expected achievement date for those competencies that need to be prioritised.

Expert comment

 

Polly Livermore, clinical academic careers programme lead for nursing and allied health professional research at Great Ormond Street Hospital and RCN rheumatology nursing forum committee member, says:

‘There was a lack of clarity about which skills make up the rheumatology nurse specialist role, which aspects of the role are essential in different care settings, and that the skills and competencies of rheumatology nurses should be benchmarked against other roles to provide a template for peer evaluation.

‘We have developed this pivotal competency framework, led by rheumatology nurse consultant Dianna Finney, to provide clarity for rheumatology nurses supporting career development.

‘For organisations, it will support staff recruitment, development and appraisal and performance management. It provides assurance to organisations, patients and the public that competency is validated and that standards are set, and confidence for rheumatology nurses that they are providing appropriate care.’

 

Key points for nurses

  • The framework can be used to support individual personal development plans and continuous professional development. It should support robust career progression for rheumatology nurses.
  • Practitioners will need to produce evidence for each competency in order to demonstrate that they have achieved the competency at the identified or desired level. This evidence should come in a range of forms.
  • This evidence will help with meeting NMC revalidation requirements.
  • Showing your worth is important. A career framework ensures that an unstable financial climate there is ongoing support and sustainability for your service, and in the long run support for your own development. The quickest and easiest way to start this process is to write a detailed job plan explaining the complexities of your role.

Further information


Erin Dean is a health journalist

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