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Endometriosis is a chronic health condition that affects one in nine people with a uterus every year. Despite how common the condition is, it can be extremely difficult to be diagnosed, with the average diagnosis taking place seven years after the first appearance of symptoms. To bring awareness to endometriosis and its impacts on the wider community, Endometriosis Awareness Month is observed each March.
Nurses play an essential role in the care and treatment of endometriosis. To support nurses in recognising symptoms, providing support and resources for long-term management, the Australian College of Nursing (ACN) offers the Endometriosis and Pelvic Pain Single Unit of Study.
We sat down with Nurse Educator and Unit Coordinator Maria Baric MACN to learn how the unit helps nurses provide endometriosis care and advocate for their patients.
What is endometriosis?
Endometriosis results from the growth of ‘endometrium-like’ tissue outside the confines of the uterus. It is associated with the menstrual cycle and typically presents as pelvic pain and impaired pelvic organ functions. The causes and progression of this disease are not well understood. Endometriosis is frequently misdiagnosed and can have a life-long negative impact on mental and physical well-being.
There are many reports that despite its prevalence, the condition is difficult to diagnose and treat. Why is that?
Signs and symptoms of endometriosis such as abdominal bloating and pain, fatigue and anxiety can be attributed to other causes or dismissed as a ‘normal’ part of the menstrual cycle. Periodic gastrointestinal symptoms including painful bowel movements, diarrhoea and constipation may be attributed to lifestyle issues. A person may self-medicate and avoid seeking medical care due to stigma associated with reproductive organ dysfunction. Healthcare workers may also not have adequate knowledge about endometriosis.
For example, a young woman may see her doctor about pain and anxiety but may have very few signs and symptoms at the time of presentation. She may be referred to a psychologist who may miss the physical aspects of the disease. This could lead to elevated levels of anxiety, depression and can amplify the severity of pain experienced by the individual.
How does it affect a person’s interaction with our health systems?
A person with endometriosis may require multiple health professionals to be involved in their care. Empowerment to understand their symptoms and the available healthcare options will promote self-management of endometriosis. Holistic care must be tailored to the individual’s physical and psychosocial needs so that pain and inflammatory triggers can be identified and effectively managed. Ideally, they should have adequate knowledge and capacity to access the required healthcare and psychosocial support.
Why do nurses need to be aware of the condition and in what settings?
Nurses in acute care and primary care settings should be able to recognise general symptoms of endometriosis and be aware of the available management options. Holistic assessment is needed to determine initial and ongoing healthcare needs.
Nurses can provide health education designed to validate the person’s experience, improve quality of life, reduce pain and slow disease progression. Nurses can also promote person-centred care to ensure personal values are included in care planning and that the individual is involved in all decisions made regarding their health needs.
How does the Endometriosis and Pelvic Pain unit help nurses provide care?
The Single Unit of Study Endometriosis and Pelvic Pain provides the student with theoretical knowledge which improves their assessment and care planning skills. The learning content is designed to expand their nursing practice so that they can recognise and manage endometriosis and pelvic pain in various clinical settings.
This is achieved by exploring endometriosis pathophysiology, pain physiology, and contemporary, evidence-based treatments and psychosocial support. A holistic, individual, person-centred approach is core to this unit.
Learning content focuses on:
- advanced knowledge of anatomy and physiology related to endometriosis and pelvic pain
- physical and mental health issues and care needs for a person experiencing endometriosis and pelvic pain
- patient education and self-care strategies which promote quality of life for people with endometriosis and pelvic pain
- developing communication skills and strategies to ensure culturally safe nursing practice
- finding evidence-based research on assessment and management of endometriosis and pelvic pain in the contemporary Australian context.
Endometriosis and Pelvic Pain Single Unit of Study
The Endometriosis and Pelvic Pain Single Unit of Study is available as part of two of ACN’s Graduate Certificates – the Graduate Certificate in Acute Care Nursing and the Graduate Certificate in Community and Primary Health Care Nursing. The course can also be taken as an individual unit and is available for Enrolled Nurses looking to upskill. Find out more and apply on our website.
About Maria Baric MACN
Maria is a registered nurse with extensive clinical experience in a variety of healthcare settings as a Nurse Unit Manager, Clinical Nurse Consultant and Nurse Educator. She has worked in critical care, interventional cardiology and most recently as a Course Coordinator for ACN’s Graduate Certificate in Critical Care Nursing. Maria holds a BHS from the University of New England and an MPH from the University of Sydney.