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Joint work eases joint pain

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A passion for working with healthcare staff in other disciplines, as well as patients themselves, attracted Jill Firth to rheumatology

No two weeks are the same for nurses, but Jill Firth, consultant nurse with the Pennine Musculoskeletal Partnership in Oldham, couldn’t be happier aboutthat. She insists that in rheumatology she has found the perfect blend of all aspects of nursing.

She began her career as a staff nurse in the accident and emergency department of Huddersfi eld Royal Infi rmary in 1989 but, after moving to the hospital’s joint replacement unit, she realised she preferred her work there. Inspired by her role model, Sister Marie O’Hara, who “encouraged my interest and pointed me in the right directions for experience and training”, she decided to undertake a post-registration course in rheumatology.

What attracted Ms Firth to a career in the specialty were aspects such as its multidisciplinary inclusion, the need to build long-term relationships with patients and the opportunity it would provide to research and teach - all adding to what she describes as a “life-long learning experience”.

After studying for her PhD at the University of Leeds, she worked there as a senior research fellow. However, she began to miss having contact with patients and working as a part of the multidisciplinary team so was drawn back to clinical practice. Enter the Pennine Musculoskeletal Partnership.

Ms Firth describes her typical working week as a division between clinics, research and serviceimprovement

activities. She adds to her busy schedule through her work with the British Health Professionals in Rheumatology and as an advocate of the Simple Tasks campaign. Simple Tasks - which derives its name from the fact that patients with rheumatic conditions have diffi culty with the “simple tasks” that form a part of everyday life - aims to raise awareness about the severity of symptoms experienced by patients with rheumatic conditions. Ms Firth explains that the campaign, which launches in October as part of the World Bone and Joint Health National Awareness week, has three main goals.

These include: heightening the priority of rheumatic conditions on a policy level; acknowledging that those with rheumatic conditions experience a limited quality of life, morbidity and mortality; and supporting the idea that rheumatology experts be included when discussing long-term condition management, and those with joint pain, stiffness and swelling be referred to a specialist within 12 weeks of the onset symptoms. This dramatically improves outcomes and the risk of future complications.

The goals of the Simple Tasks campaign only reiterate Ms Firth’s own goals for the expansion of awareness of rheumatic conditions and servicedevelopment. She explains that treatment advances over the last 10 years have led to an improved quality of life for her patients.

Rheumatology is routinely an outpatient practice, and nurses play a vital role in the patient’s care. Ms Firth’s long-term relationships with her patients are one of the aspects she finds most rewarding about her profession. She says that when working with patients with long-term conditions, “you want to get to know them” and “understanding them and the problems they face helps in understanding their priorities”.

She also recognises the importance of the nurse’s role in the medical fi eld, saying, “nurse-led care has been shown to be equally as effective as medical-led care”.

Ms Firth believes that nurses truly make a difference in their patient’s lives, and their involvement in healthcare is vital to a patient’s wellbeing. When asked about her overall work in the nursing field, she simply says she is fulfilled and challenged on a daily basis.


Dakota Smith

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