Assessing Registered Nurses' Knowledge of Multiple Sclerosis and to Explore the Role of the MS Nurse Specialist in Meeting These Needs

Thursday, May 29, 2014
Trinity Exhibit Hall
Fiona M Mullan, Masters , Neurology, Western Health & Social Care Trust, Londonderry, United Kingdom
Heidi V Thompson, Degree , Neurology, Southern Health & Social Care Trust, Portadown, United Kingdom


Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is the most common neurological condition in young adults in the UK affecting approx. 100,000 people (Heinon and Dorning 2011), in N. Ireland we would estimate to have a population of over 4,500 people affected by MS. Multiple Sclerosis is the most common neurological condition in young adults.  People with MS are admitted to district general hospitals throughout Northern Ireland for a variety of reasons. They are cared for by staff that may not have had training in Neurosciences. If nurses have a lack of knowledge does this create a barrier to care? (Shaw 2008). Hunderfund et al (2010) reports how patients are consistently dissatisfied with the information health care providers give them. 

Objectives: To assess the current knowledge registered nurses have about MS.  To identify gaps in their knowledge in order to inform/target training needs and explore the role of the MS nurse specialist in meeting these requirements.

Methods: Ward managers from medical and surgical wards in 4 district general hospitals were provided with questionnaires to distribute to their staff members across all bands of qualified nursing staff. 

Results: 240 questionnaires were distributed with 106 questionnaires were completed and returned.  Over 60 % of the nurses questioned received University based training & most nursed people with MS on an occasional basis. The study showed that the level of knowledge of MS in general nurses is poor and as a result very few general nurses (10%) felt confident nursing people with MS.  Gross & Friedman (2012) reports how negative perceptions of MS from health care professionals can be very distressing for patients.

Conclusions: Part of the Specialist Nurse’s role is to educate not only their patient group but other Healthcare Professionals such as Nurses, Allied Health Professionals and Medical Students (Corfield and Kelly 2009).

We are aware that there is a need for further education and support for general nurses; the findings support the idea that specialist nurses are best placed to provide this education. This will ensure practitioners are confident & knowledgeable in caring for people with MS which will ultimately improve the patient experience.