Patient Sheridan Durose benefits from the clinic.

Reassurance for people with 'silent disease'

With the help of generous corporate funding, a prominent MS Nurse-Led Clinic at Austin Health is giving people with MS hope and reassurance that is just a phone call away.

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a progressive neurological disease that affects more than 23,000 Australians. Often affecting young active people in the prime of their lives, an MS diagnosis is usually a shock and fear is a common reaction.

Belinda Bardsley, Manager of the MS Service at Austin Health, says funding for the clinic allows employment of specialist MS Nurses who become trusted advisors to patients - from helping them deal with their diagnosis, symptoms and treatment options to being a reassuring voice when they feel worried. "Having access to an MS Nurse usually means the problem can be addressed straight away rather than waiting to see a doctor," she says.

"The Nurse-Led Clinic is often sufficient to resolve an issue, avoid an Emergency Department visit or hospital admission," says Belinda. "We can quickly and promptly review the patient, and make sure they're OK. It's good for people at a crisis point."

Sheridan Durose was just 23 when she was diagnosed with MS. "I always knew MS as an old lady disease which would mean I couldn't walk. That really threw me - the fact that I'm 23 and not going to walk. This wasn't meant to happen to me so young. I don't want to lose myself to a disease."

For Sheridan, having access to MS Nurses has helped her deal with the challenges of an MS diagnosis. "I can call Belinda any time that I'm worried about something. She's always there; she gives me a lot of reassurance. There's nothing worse when you're having a hard time and you don't know anything about this disease or the treatments so to have someone you can count on is great."

The MS Nurse-Led Clinic has helped Sheridan decide on her current medication which has made a significant difference to her symptoms. "I can walk, I can work properly, I can write, I haven't had any more problems with my eyes, I've gained my hope back."

Considered a leader in the field, the MS Nurse-Led Clinic at Austin Health shows how this type of clinic can help not only the patients but also the efficiency of the hospital. MS Nurses from all over Australia visit to learn how to set-up their own Centres.

"The MS Nurse role is so important in keeping people well and out of hospital, out of Emergency, at work and productive citizens. Often patients have to wait to see a doctor whereas they can usually see their MS Nurse within a few days. There is absolutely an ongoing need for MS Nurses," says Belinda.