IBD Nursing – Looking to the Future at the Falk Nurse Forum

IBD Nursing  –  Looking to the Future at the Falk Nurse Forum

Co-chairs, IBD Nurse specialists Ms Isobel Mason, Ms Fiona Donovan and Ms Alex Cheshire,   explain their motivation and aims for the Forum and what they hope it will offer their colleagues as demand on their service continues to grow.

‘When I arrived at Kingston Hospital four years ago to set up an IBD service, I had no pathway to follow but because there was an existing strong IBD nursing network I was able to tap into that for support and advice.’ explains co-chair Fiona Donovan.

‘Since then things have gone from strength to strength and through groups such as the RCN IBD network and Facebook groups, IBD nurses have become very good at exchanging information and supporting each other

‘However, IBD is such a rapidly changing specialism – from the number of available treatments to the growth in patient numbers, not to mention new technology – that it is sometimes hard for individual IBD teams to step back and think about how to develop and improve the service to take account of these developments.

‘Along with networking, the main aim of the Nurse Forum is to share information from our experiences so that we can learn from each other and cherry pick those bits we think may be able to take back to improve our own service.

‘IBD nurses are a very dynamic and forward thinking group of professionals who have no shortage of new ideas and innovations to improve the IBD service. It is really important that we have events such as this Forum to allow us to share and exchange information and to inspire each other to keep improving.’

‘These are exciting times for those who work in IBD,’ agrees Isobel Mason, who heads up the IBD nurse service development campaign at Crohn’s & Colitis UK. ‘Since 2016, the numbers of IBD speciality nurses have risen by 65% to around 300 across 200 centres in England, standards of care in IBD are rising and everyone acknowledges that this is due in much part to the input of the IBD specialist nurses.

‘However as the remit and the work load increases, it’s important that IBD nurses have the support, the tools and the roadmap to allow them to deliver that care. How do we embrace new technology for example? It could allow patients more access to us but is that something we can actually provide if you look at all the other constraints on our time. How should patient pathways look, the role of IBD nurses in primary care, how do we deal with budget and management constraints?

The Crohn’s & Colitis UK IBD nurse campaign has helped to shape the role and the service, but we as a group need to be debating and agreeing on what the IBD service should look like in the future.

The Forum gives us the space to discuss all these big issues, as well as to share information and advice across the whole IBD service and we are really looking forward to this opportunity.’

Co-chair Alex Cheshire agrees that IBD speciality nursing is very much a work in progress. ‘The picture is really varied across the country,’ she explains. ‘In some areas, such as here in London, we have a highly established team which has been growing for the last ten years. In other parts of the country there may be extremely limited IBD services of just one part time post, or a new service or even nothing at all.

‘Naturally, as we have grown, we have made mistakes, learned lessons and we think it is really important to pass on that experience so that others perhaps looking to establish a service or in the early stages of doing so, can find their journey a little easier.

‘In addition, even though we have evolved into what we think is an effective service, we still face challenges, such as increasing patient expectations, demands from management and how to negotiate our evolving role between being clinical experts and patient facing nurses. Having a chance to discuss those challenges – and hopefully come up with some solutions – with a wide range of experts is a really useful opportunity for all of us working to provide the best possible IBD service.’