Background The NRAS 2013 survey and subsequent publication on the impact of RA on patients' emotional health, relationships and sexuality highlighted that rheumatology health professionals felt they had little or no skills training to be able to feel comfortable to open the door to discuss sensitive, emotional and sexual issues with their patients in an empathic and helpful way
Objectives To faciliatate opportunities for nurses and allied health professionals to attend a one day course to learn from experts and eachother how to discuss sensitive and emotional issues that their patients may experience as a direct result of their inflammatory arthritis.
Methods An NRAS survey of rheumatology nurses and allied health professionals revealed that many often avoided opening such conversations as they felt they could offer few if any solutions or did not know enough about available support to signpost patients to for therapy and guidance. The lack of availability of talking therapies in RA is well established. NRAS worked with the psychotherapeutic counsellor (who has RA herself) who authored the NRAS Emotions, Relationships and Sexuality guide, to pilot an inter-active one day training for rheumatology health professionals. Taking the results from the pre-course questionnaires it was clear that HCPs wanted to be given guidance around what they could and couldn't say to patients to maintain their professionalism while showing empathy and humanity. The day was structured with a mixture of presentations, role plays and discussions. Topics included impact of rheumatology drugs on libido, fertility, contraception and sexual function; scenario role plays taking turns at being the patient and the health professional; presentations and video clips about empathy and “wearing others” shoes'; understanding sexual anatomy, sexual problems arising from having RA, and suggested ways to open discussion on these issues
Results 14 nurses, physiotherapists, occupational therapists and researchers attended the pilot session, though many more wanted to but could not be released from their duties to attend. Of the 13 feedback responses obtained, 69% said they would be extremely likely or very likely change their clinical practice as a consequence of what they had learned during the training. Many attendees commented on not having previously thought, or had any knowledge of, the impact of certain drug therapies on patients' sex lives. 100% of attendees said the “putting yourself in the patient's shoes” role plays were incredibly thought provoking and some stated that these were the highlight of the course.
Conclusions Taking into account the feedback from delegates the pilot has been modified slightly to allow more time to be spent on the areas of most value to the professionals and will now include more real life patient experiences. The health professionals all felt this was a unique, unprecedented and much needed training resource that should be made available to all who work with people with RA and other long term conditions.
Acknowledgements NRAS would like to acknowledge the support of Dr Rod Hughes in the delivery of the pilot along with the authors of this abstract
Disclosure of Interest None declared