Hero photograph
Lisa Griffith's receiving the Nurses Travel Award at the Annual Scientific Meeting of the New Zealand Society of Gastroenterology.
Photo by Crohn's & Colitis New Zealand Charitable Trust

IBD Nursing: The role of the IBD Nurse:

Lisa Griffiths, IBD Nurse Wellington —

Why is your IBD nurse so important?

Our role is to support you to manage your inflammatory bowel disease and get on with living your life. We are really easy to contact and can be alongside you through every stage of your journey. We are involved when you first get diagnosed, we will help monitor you when you are well, and we can be the first point of contact if you get sick again.

What can your IBD nurse do for you?

The role of the IBD nurse is growing. When you first get diagnosed, we will help you come to terms with the diagnosis and the impact it may have on your life. We provide education to help you understand the treatments and how to manage your symptoms. If you need monitoring, particularly if you are on medication that suppresses your immune system, we will help with this and we also help arrange infusions. If you have a flare, we can provide rapid assessment via telephone or in acute clinics. We can also help with transitioning from paediatric services to adult services.  IBD nurses also run their own clinics.

Building a rapport with patients and developing trust is a key part to the role of the IBD Nurse.  Being able to express their challenges and issues are important as inflammatory bowel disease affects many aspects of an individual’s life: family, relationships, and, at times, one’s body image and how individuals feel about themselves. IBD nurses look at the overall well-being of the patient and discuss mental health and sexual issues which can be impacted by this disease.

As an IBD nurse we can help with these issues by listening and supporting our patients and by helping put mechanisms in place to help them through this rough part of their journey. Our patients need to know they are not alone in their battle with this disease and that support networks are available and their IBD nurses are accessible to help.

What feedback do we get?

Many patients find it really reassuring to know that help is only an email, text or phone call away.

How can you help us help you?

Use us! We are here to help. There is no such thing as a stupid question. If you have run out of your medicines or lost your lab form, or forgot to attend your clinic appointment, we want to know. We won’t judge you. IBD nurses are passionate about helping you get the care you need.

Feedback is really important. Let us know what we do well and what we could do better.

Finally, there are not enough IBD nurses in New Zealand and, sadly, you may find that your hospital does not have one. If they don’t, please speak up. Write to your hospital and ask why not. Our role makes a tremendous difference to the lives of our patients and we believe every patient with inflammatory bowel disease in New Zealand should have access to an IBD nurse. 

Lisa is the IBD Nurse at Capital Coast DHB.  She was the recipient of the 2019 AbbVie Nurses Travel Award.