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09 August

Doctorate for multiple sclerosis nurse Helen

Dr Helen Willis

Dr Helen Willis, a clinical nurse specialist for multiple sclerosis, has completed her professional doctorate from Anglia Ruskin University.

Helen conducted a study into the assessment of health-related quality of life in patients with MS thanks to sponsorship from the MS Society.

“I thought asking patients about their quality of life was a good thing to do, but wanted to know if patients wanted their quality of life assessed. Does it make a difference to them?” she said.

“I used the multiple sclerosis impact scale that asks about the impact of MS both psychologically and physically so we could determine and then address the areas of most severe impact.

“Patients don’t necessarily choose to tell us everything when they come in for outpatient appointments. When they filled in the forms we found it gave far more of an insight into the impact of MS on the patient. Many research participants described how beneficial they found completing the questionnaire to be. Indeed some missed completing it once the data collection was complete.

“We are now posting out questionnaires to patients with their clinic letters as the research demonstrated that formal assessment of health-related quality of life has made a difference to practice as it highlights what the patients really want to talk about. We aim to give patients the best quality of life we can.”

Helen works alongside clinical nurse specialist Julie Webster and neurology support nurse Nadine Brett to look after the 790 MS patients in our region. She explained some of the difficulties that people with MS face.

“It’s a very unpredictable condition and living with that unpredictability can very difficult. Patients with MS can experience many symptoms including mobility issues, fatigue, and bladder problems, some of which are hidden symptoms that employers and relatives might not see.

“As patients deteriorate it becomes harder and harder to work, and isolation can be a huge issue – they can’t go out on their own or are too frightened to go out.

Helen thanked colleagues Julie Webster and consultant neurologist Dr Ioannis Zukos for their support and is delighted to now be able to take a well-earned break from studying. 

“I did a master’s degree and I thought ‘I’m not going to do any studying again’ but then I saw the MS Society were sponsoring professional doctorates. It was hard work and a very long journey but it’s fantastic to have done it,” she added.