Rheumatoid Arthritis: Coping with Disability


  • Tara L. Barker MSN RN CCRP,

    Research Nurse Coordinator, Corresponding authorSearch for more papers by this author
    • Tara L. Barker, MSN RN CCRP, is a research nurse coordinator of the Department of Rheumatologic and Immunologic Diseases at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation in Cleveland, OH.

  • Theresa L. Puckett PhD(c) RN CPNP CNE

    Assistant Professor of NursingSearch for more papers by this author
    • Theresa L. Puckett, PhD(c) RN CPNP CNE, is an assistant professor of nursing at Cleveland State University in Cleveland, OH.



This article explains the components of disability as related to rheumatoid arthritis (RA) using an expansion of Nagi's Model of Disability (Jette, 2006) and the World Health Organization's (WHO) International Classification of Functioning, Disability, and Health (ICF). In addition, suggestions for ways in which nurses can offer patients choices in physical functional therapy and psychosocial aspects of coping with the chronicity of RA are discussed. Understanding how RA relates to the holistic management of the patient will allow nurses to modify and suggest additional measures to enhance the outcomes of patient-centered care. Many degrees of disability exist that affect the physical and psychosocial domains of RA. Nurses should identify the primary issues influencing disability and assemble supporting resources or a multidisciplinary team to manage a person's disabilities. As nurses develop and maintain relationships with patients, they are able to follow through with the care plan continuum and recognize when modifications are needed.