When your calling in life is patient excellence

Patient care is at the centre of our entire industry and nurses play a key role for countless lives. For insight into the lives of nurses, we recently sat down with one in Germany to hear about their inspiring career.

Mrs Merko, thank you for giving us your time today. Could you please give us a little background about yourself and vocation as a nurse?

I started my profession as a nurse about 28 years ago in the neurology department of the Evangelische Kliniken in Gelsenkirchen.

As a nurse, I realized quickly it would be a lifelong learning journey and my continued education was going to be essential for me to support patients in the best way I can. So, over the years at the clinic, I acquired additional qualifications, first as a stroke nurse, and after several trainings in MS, I then joined the MS unit as qualified MS nurse where I have been working now for several years.

Outside of work, I have been on another learning journey raising my three children, who are almost all grown up now!

What exactly is Multiple Sclerosis?

Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is a progressive degenerative neurological disease that can affect patients at any age in various ways. There is currently no cure and so a diagnosis of MS is often life altering and creates a significant burden for patients and caregivers.

How do you support patients with MS?

Patients need emotional care and support immediately following initial diagnosis. MS patients are often relatively young (between 20 and 40 years of age), frightened, in denial and our initial task is to help steady their feet and begin their next chapter in life.

It’s with that goal that I started an MS support session for patients in our clinic three years ago. It takes place on a weekly basis, from 9:30 am to 3 pm, free of charge and without registration. Here MS patients and their caregivers have the opportunity to ask me questions about their treatment and disease, be heard and receive the emotional support they so desperately need.

Our walk-in clinic has led to a larger patient support event here at our treatment centre with the goal of fostering better dialogue between physicians and patients, which is what patients really value.

How are physicians involved with patient support and care in your clinic?

Naturally physicians are concerned not only about the efficacy of treatments but also about their patients’ overall wellbeing. Unfortunately, doctors don’t always have sufficient time to tend to patients so that’s really where the role of a nurse becomes vital - we listen to the patients’ emotional needs and convey their state to the treating physicians, so practitioners stay in tune with their patients. It really is a partnership with constant input and feedback from us on their patients’ emotional well-being.

Can you share a memorable patient experience you’ve had as a nurse?

There have been so many memories – I’ll share one about a child who was registered in our clinic and presented with unclear disease symptoms.

In school, this boy showed poor performance and his teachers believed he just had no interest in studying. No one really understood what was going on and the parents felt quite isolated in dealing with the challenge, but they didn’t want to give up. They contacted us because they noticed that their son kept stumbling without any reason during physical exercise at school. It was in our clinic that we were able to diagnose the child with MS.

Because of our diagnosis, we were then able to initiate the right treatments for him and today, that little boy has grown into a young man diligently studying architecture and pursuing his dreams.

Looking back, it was one of those moments when you become acutely aware of how important it is to support children with MS and their families. Parents are often alone in trying to decide what’s best.

We’re working to change the picture to create more success stories. In Germany, there is a shortage of rehabilitation-centres dedicated to children, and so we had the idea to launch one! At present, we are putting a concept together to inspire our clinic’s leadership team about this opportunity and they are extremely excited about this project and already exploring ways to bring this idea to life.

That’s fantastic news! What role can pharmaceutical companies play to better support or care for MS patients?

Personally, I think that pharmaceutical companies should continue producing medicines, but offer additional solutions and services that can assist patients along the entire treatment pathway.

There are also opportunities to strengthen doctor – patient dialogue; for example, assisting in ways that special patient consultation sessions can be set up or promoted so that small groups of patients can meet up with a specialty physician. This would provide a unique opportunity to engage with an expert and learn more about progress fighting the disease from a leading expert in the field.

Finally, and from my own experience as a nurse, the continued education and training provided by the industry should also be recognized. Company initiatives that are tailored to help us serve specific patient needs, benefit patients to receive the care and support they so much deserve.

Mrs Merko, thank you for this interview!

Yes, of course, it’s wonderful to see that our voice as nurse matters!

Date of Publication: June 2019