More specialist nurses are needed to ensure people with bowel conditions such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis can stay in employment, according to a new report.
The research, which looked at the impact of inflammatory bowel disease on employment prospects, found that workers and bosses value the crucial help provided by nurses in managing the condition.
Lancaster University’s Work Foundation, which led the research, spoke to people with IBD who said the unpredictable and disruptive nature of the condition made it harder for them to succeed in their chosen careers and also affected their emotional and mental health.
“IBD nurses provided an invaluable support, would be a point of regular contact”
Working Well report
Interviews with both groups revealed a range of benefits in having specialist nurses on hand, such as information and support on initial diagnosis, signposting to expert services and discussion of treatment options.
Called Working Well – Promoting job and career opportunities for those with IBD, the report says: “Many participants often described their GPs or consultants as being too busy to see or to talk to if an issue with their IBD arose.
“As a result IBD nurses provided an invaluable support, would be a point of regular contact and somebody who was able to chart the progress of an individual more closely.”
The report notes that specialist nurses were often the first point of call when patients had a relapse because they were reliable and able to quickly set up appointments at clinics and answer queries about medication.
“The expertise specialist nurses offer is based on their unique understanding of how IBD impacts on all aspects of life, including employment opportunities”
In particular patients valued the practical advice provided by nurses, such as helping to solve commuting and travelling problems, the report adds.
The report urges all healthcare professionals working with IBD patients to discuss how to manage symptoms at work, adding that returning to or remaining in employment should be seen as a clinical outcome. It also calls for all patients to have an allocated specialist nurse.
Commenting on the report, Helen Terry, director of policy at charity Crohn’s and Colitis UK, said: “The expertise specialist nurses offer to patients is based on their unique understanding of the way in which IBD impacts on all aspects of life, including the importance of work and access to employment opportunities.”
However, she highlighted gaps in provision after the most recent audit of IBD services found 14% still do not provide any specialist nursing.