Caring for Patients with Multiple Sclerosis

By Angie Kellett, RN-BC, MSCN

It is an exciting time to be a nurse. In fact, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the nursing profession is expected to grow over the next five years. Our healthcare system is evolving rapidly and it is important, and at times often required, for us as nurses to keep up with the latest information and trends for our patients. With the growing availability of medical information online and peer-to-peer message boards and forums that allow people to learn more about different health conditions and innovative treatments, patients have become more empowered to make their own treatment decisions or diagnoses before visiting the doctor.

The general public still relies on medical practitioners for diagnosis and treatments of specific health conditions, but before they decide to visit one, they will spend time to do some research online. With the number of online resources available today, it’s now very easy for anyone to look up at a particular health condition, determine its common symptoms and how other people around the world have survived the necessary treatments. The information you can gather from these online resources can help set your expectations and create a realistic budget for the diagnosis and treatment. 

As nurses, our job is to help make sure patients are gathering the right information from all venues when they need it, which can be a 24/7 job. We are also there to answer questions about a person’s health and act as a counselor providing emotional support for patients and their families. 

This means that even if online resources are available for anyone today, we, as nurses, should teach the general public to determine which information from the internet is accurate or not. A person’s health can significantly affect their ability to be productive during the day, and if they believe shallow health-related articles online, they might self-diagnose and, when left unaddressed, can become the reason for their stress and anxiety. 

I’ve been a nurse for 18 years and have specialized in caring for patients with multiple sclerosis (MS) for more than a decade. Affecting 400,000 people in the U.S., MS is a progressive chronic disease of the central nervous system that prevents the nerves from transmitting messages between the brain and other parts of the body. MS impacts each patient in a unique way – some people experience exacerbations or relapses followed by remissions, while others experience a gradual worsening of symptoms over time. 

In some cases, MS can become the reason why individuals can no longer work or maintain healthy relationships with the people around them. MS can have adverse effects on a person’s life – not only in their physical health but also their mental and social health, as well. 

As a chronic disease, patients will always need a healthcare team to help manage their MS and the impact it has on their lives. Without the intervention of a medical professional, patients with MS will surely have a hard time living their lives. This is especially true if the patient is a senior or has other health conditions. 

Because MS is unpredictable, patients may need our help at all times of the day and night. Patients with MS will usually have a hard time getting out of their beds, preparing their meals, and taking care of their homes, which is why, as much as possible, they should not be left alone. Unless a family member is not available to live with them, nurses like us should spend time visiting them regularly and attending to all of their needs.  It is often in between neurologist visits that I get a call as a nurse educator with Genzyme’s MS One to One program. 

For example, if a patient wakes up at 2 a.m. with numbness in her legs, as a result of their MS, she will want to turn to a reliable and trusted source of information to get through that experience. MS One to One provides this type of support and more to program members living with the disease, as well as their care partners, by phone and online, 24/7. This includes everything from discussing the latest research to learning how to speak with friends and family members about one’s MS symptoms. 

To learn more about MS One to One, visit www.MSOnetoOne.com, or call 1-855-MSOne2One (1-855-676-6326). Whether you work in a doctor’s office, a hospital setting, or for a patient support program, as I do, I take great pride in knowing that we make a great impact on patients’ lives every day.

Angie Kellett is an MS One-to-One Nurse Educator.