Sender: Susan Agland, RN, MSCN
New South Wales, Australia

In Australia the MS nursing experience is different in some ways to other nations. There are around 23,000 people with MS in Australia and 4,000 in New Zealand. Multiple Sclerosis is less common in Asian nations but there is a growing network of specialist nurses providing care. While most people with MS are located reasonably near to MS centres there are a lot of people (e.g. 1/3 of the people I work with who are located in the Hunter New England Local Health District of New South Wales) that travel more than an hour to see their specialist and sometimes up to 8 hours of driving just to the MS Clinic. There are about 8 prophylactic treatments available currently and most are available as first line therapies. The cost of these therapies is almost completely met by the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, with eligible people paying a small dispensing fee to their local pharmacist.

MS nurses can be clinical, research focused or a mix of the two. MS nurses can be hospital based, which usually means working in large specialist centres with a multidisciplinary team to hand. Some MS nurses work with private neurologists in smaller practice centres and they would often deal with other neurological disorders. Then there are a large number of MS nurses who work for MS Australia, which is an organisation similar to the US’ MS Society: these nurses work largely in the community but can also be based in a hospital or private centre. There are nurse practitioners, clinical nurse consultants, clinical nurses specialists and registered nurses. People with MS do not pay to see an MS nurse: nurses are either funded by practice centres or the organisation they work for, e.g. MS Australia. The organisation who supports MS nurses in Australia and New Zealand is MS Nurses Australasia.

Despite all of this the issues that people with MS face are the same around the world and it is always good to share the international experience at meetings like CMSC. The current issues I see in general for people with MS in my region of Australia (which is, by the way, the size of England!) is minimising disease progression, staying in the workforce and getting equal access to MS specialist care no matter where you live.