Autoimmune Awareness: One Condition, Many Diseases

Autoimmune Awareness: One Condition, Many Diseases

Approximately 50 million Americans, or one in five people, have an autoimmune disease. In these patients, the immune system attacks healthy cells by mistake. These diseases, more than 130 known at this time, can affect many parts of the body, including the joints, skin, kidneys, heart, lungs, blood vessels, and brain.1  Examples of autoimmune diseases include: diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, multiple sclerosis and psoriasis.

In recognition of National Autoimmune Disease Awareness Month, we asked two of UBC’s registered nurses, specializing in autoimmune diseases, to talk about their roles and the care they provide patients affected by autoimmune diseases.

Jennifer Silvis, RN, Nurse Clinician

UBC tenure: 5 years; past experience includes hospice care

Typical day on the job: “Every day, I care for patients by phone.  My team and I provide injection training, product information and safety directions. Medication adherence is very important for patients with autoimmune diseases, so I also ensure patients receive refill reminders and instructions on how to store their medication, which requires refrigeration. “

What autoimmune patients need most: “Patients need to know they have an advocate. Last year I was diagnosed with psoriatic arthritis so I know what my patients are going through. I understand the limitations of this disease – it affects my daily life. I’m not as active as I was in the past and I’m more susceptible to being sick. As a teenager I suffered from psoriasis, and the thick, red patches it left on my skin affected my confidence and my mental image of myself.

“I recognize and understand when patients are going through some of the same challenges I’ve had.  I’m taking the same type of medication they’re taking. I understand how this medication can help a person get around better, be more active, and feel better. As a nurse, I also help patients learn more about their disease and symptoms and how diet and exercise are extremely important to living with their disease. “

Favorite Patient Story: “Not too long ago I called a patient with rheumatoid arthritis and his wife answered. They are a young couple, expecting a child soon. The wife told me how happy she was that her husband was responding well to the medication. She said he had been a runner since high school, but due to his condition, he had to stop. Once he started on his medication, he was able to start running again, which improved his health and his outlook on life.”

 

Dorothy Neyer, RN, Nurse Clinician

UBC tenure: 2 years; past experience includes working in a pain management center

Typical day on the job: “Each day I am here to support patients, whether they are just starting their medication or have been taking it for years.  In addition to providing disease education and clinical support, my team and I work with patients step by step to help them understand their insurance coverage and access their medication at the lowest cost. We’re here as long and as often as they need us. With an autoimmune disease, patients can experience flare ups. I help patients identify what may have caused the flare up and what questions they should discuss with their physician.”

What autoimmune patients need most: “Autoimmune diseases can affect patients in many different ways. I listen carefully so I can understand their symptoms. They need to live, work, and survive with a chronic, often painful, condition. I work to empower them to take charge of their life by having good information. Some patients need help in learning how to administer the medication, which is self injected. Often times, however, patients are overwhelmed and just need someone to listen. They may not want to complain to family, but they can be open to me as a nurse.”

Favorite Patient Story: “I recently spoke with a male patient who has Crohn’s disease. In the past, his illness has prevented him from spending a lot of quality time with his family. But he’s responded well to his medication and he told me he feels like he can be a Dad again. It’s great fun to celebrate my patients’ improved health and recognize their accomplishments.”

 

Nurses like Jennifer and Dorothy help us create best-in-class Nursing Support Services  with customized care to meet the needs of patients and their medications. Contact us to find out how UBC can help you do more for autoimmune patients and therapies.

1. American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association. www.aarda.org