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Overview

Find out more about what a career as a rheumatology specialist nurse looks like.

A rheumatology specialist nurse is a trained nurse who has specialist knowledge, skills and experience in looking after patients' physical, emotional and social needs.

Rheumatology specialist nurses are sometimes called clinical nurse specialists, rheumatology nurse practitioners or liaison rheumatology nurses. Rheumatology specialist nurses work with people with all kinds of arthritis-related conditions.

Some rheumatology specialist nurses are able to diagnose, recommend treatments and prescribe medication. They can also carry out investigations and advise where referral may be needed to other team members such as podiatry or physiotherapy, and can liaise with a patient's GP if other issues arise.

They are a key member of the rheumatology team.

Information

Qualifications

To work as a nurse, you'll need a nursing degree. Every university is different, but most universities require five GCSEs plus two A-levels or equivalent to apply for a degree course.

As part of your degree you’ll have to choose a specialism, so you'll need to train in either paediatric and adolescent or adult nursing if you’re thinking of a career in rheumatology.

The skills you'll need include great listening and communication, ability to work in a team and you'll need to be caring.

Pathway

Newly qualified nurses start as a band 5 and you may start as a Junior Specialist Nurse or Staff Nurse in rheumatology within a hospital or sometimes the community.

You'll grow and increase your skills over time, and will be mentored and supported through a development framework, which gives a structured approach to training. 

Most experience is developed through on-the-job learning, with peer support and clinical supervision to help you develop the skills you need. There are varying career paths in different settings (e.g. a focused biologics drug-related role, or early arthritis clinics, or a more general approach), but progression is usually achieved by gaining experience, utilising training opportunities and furthering your clinical knowledge.

There are varied roles and responsibilities you can develop into with time, which can include becoming more management-focused, or developing clinical skills to become an advanced practitioner or consultant nurse. A competency framework for rheumatology nurses has been developed by the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) to help nurses plan their careers.

Training opportunities

Much of your development will happen within your organisation as you build up experience, skills and knowledge. There are also short specialist nursing courses, including our Rheumatology for Specialist Nurses course, which is designed to include learning requirements from the RCN competency framework. This has a combination of lectures, interactive workshops and group discussions to further your rheumatology knowledge.

There's also often the opportunity to carry out advanced skills such as ultrasound, joint injections and prescribing.

There's also the option of more in-depth courses to gain a qualification like a postgraduate diploma, Masters degree or to apply for a fellowship to complete your own PhD.

A typical week

A career as a rheumatology nurse is busy and varied. Your week varies from seeing patients in clinics to acting on investigations, assessing and advising on care on a ward (dependant on your setting) to advising callers on a helpline. You're be the main point of contact for patients and families and your role also involves supporting people to self-manage their condition, helping to improve their quality of life.

As part of the wider multidisciplinary team, you'll discuss cases, supporting the team and making decisions about patient care.

With career progression and training you might become a Ward Manager who supervises the ward or an Independent Nurse Prescriber, meaning you'll work with patients to adjust their medication. Clinical Nurse Specialists work at an advanced level, managing the clinics, overseeing training and education and patient care.

Resources

NHS Health Careers

The Royal College of Nursing