More than 25,600 Australians live with multiple sclerosis (MS) and there are 90 nurses working across the country to provide people with MS with a special kind of support.
- People with multiple sclerosis can access care from a specialised nurse
- Access to an MS Nurse improves health outcomes and medication management, as well as reducing the costs of care
- Connecting with your State and Territory based MS organisation can link you to MS Nurses and a range of other supports
MS Nurses are an important part of the network of supports people with MS use because they can improve quality of life.
This article outlines the benefits of having access to an MS specialist nurse after diagnosis – based on research done as part of the Australian MS Longitudinal Study (AMSLS), a national research platform of not-for-profit organisation MS Australia.
What does an MS Nurse do?
MS Nurses work with people with MS to support them in a range of different areas of life.
An MS Nurse may help with:
- Emotional support
- Relapse management
- Symptom management
- Medication management
- Complex decision making around disclosure, medication options, logistics and family planning
The experience and specialist knowledge of an MS Nurse is used by people at all stages of life with MS, however connecting with a nurse is particularly important for people who are newly diagnosed and will benefit most from education and support to work through what the diagnosis means.
The research into the impact of MS Nurses found their specialist care led to some significant health outcomes.
People with access to an MS Nurse reported slower disease progression, less severe symptoms and lower disability levels.
As 64 percent of people with MS are using a disease modifying medication to reduce the number and severity of relapses or to slow down the progression of the disease, it makes sense that having a specialist nurse helping with medication and symptom management would be beneficial.
Nurses have been shown to reduce the number of emergency department presentations by people with MS and prevent some hospital admissions.
People connected to an MS Nurse also reported less depression and anxiety because of the support they received.
With all of these other health outcomes combined, people who were connected with a nurse had a higher quality of life than others living with MS who did not access an MS Nurse.
MS can have an effect on a person’s independence, mental health and relationships, but the understanding that an MS Nurse has of how all the different aspects of the person’s life can be affected means that the nurse can make sure the person is given tailored care.
Support that addresses all the impacts of MS is more effective than care that only takes into account one aspect – such as pain levels or physical symptoms.
The changing nature of MS – which results in different symptoms from person to person, and impacts each person differently every day – is also understood by MS Nurses and taken into consideration when tailoring the best support for an individual.
The speciality of MS Nurses to be able to provide the support that people with MS need also reduces the number of more expensive specialist health professionals, such as neurologists.
As there are only 90 MS Nurses in Australia, there is only one nurse per 284 people with MS – and the number of nurses is also declining.
The MS Nurse Care in Australia Report shows that a third of people with MS don’t have access to a nurse, despite the known benefits of MS Nurse support.
Although MS Nurse care is almost always delivered through public hospitals and community providers, the State and Territory based MS organisations are the ones that link people to MS Nurses or clinics and can help with connecting you to a wide range of supports.
Click on your local organisation below to contact them about services, supports and programs:
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