Characterizing the clinical practice and professional behaviour of rheumatology nurse specialists: a pilot study

Musculoskeletal Care. 2010 Sep;8(3):136-42. doi: 10.1002/msc.173.


Background: There is a need to characterize the practice of nurse specialists, for several reasons: to identify the skills and knowledge required for the role, to safeguard the role and to facilitate appropriate remuneration of activities.

Objective: To develop an instrument, which characterizes the clinical and professional activities of rheumatology nurse specialists (RNSs).

Methods: A questionnaire was produced, informed by the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC), to assess competencies in advanced nursing practice and completed by senior clinical rheumatology nurses in the UK undertaking an MSc in rheumatology nursing. Consenting respondents were also interviewed, to enable triangulation of the data.

Results: A 38-item questionnaire was produced. It comprised four sections: clinical activities, non-patient-based activities, professional behaviour and perceived confidence in a number of areas of practice. Thirteen nurses completed the questionnaire and seven of these took part in a telephone interview. All RNSs were engaged in the follow-up care of patients with rheumatoid arthritis, providing education, psychological support, monitoring and changing of drug treatments, and referrals to other health professionals. The RNSs produced guidelines, conducted audits and provided mentorship. They had low levels of confidence in seeing new patients, presenting the results of an audit at a conference, and writing a business case.

Conclusions: We have begun the process of developing a questionnaire that can identify the clinical activities, perceived self-competence and professional behaviour of RNSs. This method of characterizing advanced nursing practice offers potential as a model for nurse specialists in other disciplines. Further work is required to validate the questionnaire on a large cohort of RNSs.

MeSH terms

  • Clinical Competence / standards*
  • Employee Performance Appraisal / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Nurse's Role
  • Nurse-Patient Relations
  • Pilot Projects
  • Professional Practice / standards*
  • Rheumatic Diseases / nursing*
  • Rheumatology / education*
  • Specialties, Nursing / standards*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires*