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'Working in a specialty can be rewarding and isolating'


Patricia Cornell is equipping nurses with auditing and communication skills to boost services in rheumatology

Working in a specialty can be rewarding, but also isolating. Often as you drill down deeper, you tend to have less contact with other generalists or nurses from other specialties. This can affect your ability to learn from other people’s experience to improve your own practice.

That was the view of Patricia Cornell, a nurse with specialist knowledge of inflammatory arthritis. As part of the steering group for the RApport educational platform, which is designed to help the NHS enhance patient care in the field of rheumatoid arthritis, she knows that sharing best practice is the ideal way to equip nurses with non-clinical skills such as communication and auditing. “It’s the best way to push their careers to the next level,” she says.

For three years she has been working with the other seven committee members to put together educational programmes for rheumatology specialty services as well as yearly workshops for nurses. 

From her 25 years of nursing experience at the Royal College of Nursing, the Royal Navy and Poole Hospital Foundation Trust, Ms Cornell has an extensive background in rheumatology. She is also on several clinical committees as well as RApport, including EULAR (European League Against Rheumatism), which represents patients, health professionals and scientific societies of rheumatology of all European nations. 

After RApport’s Every Audit Counts workshop last year, the organisation asked the 30 attendees to evaluate it, and 96% felt confident in their ability to conduct or assist with an audit after the workshop. 

For nurses, having the ability to perform a systematic review of care against explicit criteria is a necessary skill.

“It can be really helpful to nurses to be able to point out areas that need to be improved and how to move forward in the future,” says Ms Cornell. 

“This is especially important in rheumatology with new research coming out all the time.”

She believes auditing can also identify where there are a shortage of specialists, which she thinks is a problem in her area as it is in many others.

“Getting more nurses into rheumatology is really important. It’s important for patients; we know that from what they have said. Specialist nurses are needed all over the UK so patients can cope with their long-term conditions better,” she says. 

But finding specialists isn’t her only concern. She believes many nurses have a difficult time communicating in the workplace, hence the workshop on communication skills and using neurolinguistic programming to better understand patients’ needs,and using verbal and non-verbal cues effectively.

“Proper communication is an important concept because it has everything to do with your work. It can be really efficient, but it takes practice to be able to connect it with your work and clinical practice,” she says.

This will feature in this year’s annual meeting, Succeeding in the NHS, on 7–8 September in Manchester. Keynote speaker, Sheena Hennell, is commissioning manager of the Wirral Health Commissioning Consortium. Additionally, the group will be discussing commissioning for quality in arthritis. 

Ms Cornell says the group isn’t just about improving care, it’s about developing nurses and the profession. “We are giving them the tools to move forward in their job. It’s about knowing what they are getting right in their clinical practice and making them aware of what they can then improve on.” 

λ For details on the RApport programme or if you would like to attend September’s meeting, go to or email

Sarah Goshen


Readers' comments (4)

  • Again, someone spouting the tripe that is neuro-linguistic programming, what next, sacrificing animals and reading their entrails? Beware the Ides of March, O Nursing Times reader and use the following non-verbal cue to people who use it (NLP): extend middle and index fingers towards the sky whilst closing the rest of the hand. Place opposite hand on the ante-cubital fossa, vigourously contract biceps and then triceps whilst blowing a raspberry.
    NLP is chicanery, the mental equivalent of homeopathic remedies that are diluted to concentrations of one part per universe. NLP is a get-rich quick scheme for the gurus who spout it as a cure-all for the psyche of middle aged overweight Americans who don't realise that they are being sold snake-oil by a carpetbagger and move onto the next greaseball with the shiniest infomercial and the most outlandish 'claims' backed by no evidence
    ' Leading scientists { who? Steven Hawking?} state that using our new and improved dog-shite shampoo* twice a day could make you a better Burger flipper/ CEO by utilising the invisible power of smell so you are promoted to that corner office you have always felt you so richly deserved' **

    * Contains 40% dog-shite, 60% horse-shite
    ** Results may vary due to individual IQ and previous results in national standardised tests

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  • Not a fan of NLP then???

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  • Load of old pony

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  • so much for specialities

    Organ Donation

    organ donation coordinators (nurses) now being employed in european hospials to identify potential donors, especially in ICU.
    does this mean they stand like vampires ready to pounce on all who come through the doors?

    is this the future of modern medicine, a return to the the likes of Leonardo da Vinci who enjoyed cutting up dead bodies for a living!

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