The critical role of the Parkinson's nurse specialist

13 Apr 2024

With a timely publication just a week prior to parkinson's Awareness Week, a thorough review of Parkinson's nurse specialists has shed much needed light on the critical role they play in the lives of those with Parkinson's, their families and friends in caring roles, within Parkinson's services and the multidisciplinary team, and in meeting the goals of the wider NHS around reduced emergency admissions, personalised care and supported self-management.

The review, carried out by independent healthcare consultant Sue Thomas, Parkinson's specialist nurse Emma Edwards and consultant neurologist Dr Chris Kobylecki, was published on 5th April in the Journal of Parkinson's disease and covers a huge amount of data across published papers, policy documents and reports from 2007 until present day. We have pulled out a few key headlines that jumped out at us.

Parkinson’s Nurses Are Crucial for the Management of Parkinson’s Disease: 2007–2024

Integral to multidisciplinary function

' …the provision of Parkinson’s disease care, as exemplified by the Parkinson's nurse specialist model is a proficient, safety critical model of care that is essential to the functioning of interdisciplinary teams and other key professional groups.

Parkinson's specialist nurses are often extolled for their individualised and holistic support of patients and their families, and optimal management of Parkinson's itself. However, their vital role as a coordinator of care is as essential to healthcare services as it is to the patient themselves, as this review highlights.

Reduced emergency admissions

'The holistic care and timely interventions provided by a PNS not only help to reduce patient risk and morbidity but can also potentially prevent costly inpatient care episodes.'

The focus of the NHS currently is around prevention, care closer to home, and reducing unnecessary hospital attendance, both in outpatient appointments and emergency care. Specialist nurses are ideally placed to optimise management and support health promoting activities, such as bone health leading to reduced frailty and falls, bladder management reducing urinary tract infections, and physical movement leading to sustained independence.

Supported self-management

'The nurse invests time in empowering patients through teaching self-care and promoting self-management… prompt response to symptoms can reduce the need for emergency care.'

Supported-self-management is part of the solution to increase overall health and wellness, prevent comorbidities and reduce demand on services. Part education, part encouragement with a good amount of signposting and a bit of accountability thrown in, it has been found to improve physical, emotional and social health and result in increased independence and agency.

You can read the full paper online; all of the quotes have been taken from the paper, and its full citation is: Thomas, Sue, Edwards, Emma, and Kobylecki, Christopher. ‘Parkinson’s Nurses Are Crucial for the Management of Parkinson’s Disease: 2007–2024’. 1 Jan. 2024 : 1 – 9

'The things you can't get from the books'

Parkinson's Academy, our original and longest running Academy, houses 20 years of inspirational projects, resources, and evidence for improving outcomes for people with Parkinson's. Led by co-founder and educational director Dr Peter Fletcher, the Academy has a truly collegiate feel and prides itself on delivering 'the things you can't get from books' - a practical learning model which inspires all Neurology Academy courses.