Parkinson’s learning module aims to enhance nursing care


Parkinson Canada has just launched its latest online learning module, especially designed to help nurses learn how to assist patients in managing their Parkinson’s symptoms at every stage of the disease. We encourage people living with Parkinson’s and their care partners to share this news with their health care team, especially nurses at their family doctor’s office, in long-term care facilities or at movement disorder clinics.

“Parkinson’s is a complex neurological disease and is best treated by a team of health care professionals,” says Grace Ferrari, Senior Manager, Education & Support, for Parkinson Canada.  “Nurses have a great deal of interaction with patients, so they can offer meaningful tips on managing medication and the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease to get the best results,  reduce the impact of any side effects, and improve quality of life.”

The module Parkinson’s Disease: From Diagnosis to Advanced Stage Disease is accredited* by the Continuing Nursing Professional Education (CNPE) office in the Ingram School of Nursing at McGill University and focuses on nursing care strategies for all stages of Parkinson’s. In the early stage, nurses should be aware of the priorities at the time of diagnosis. As the disease progresses, symptoms have an increasing impact and nurses need to be able to make a clinical assessment of non-motor symptoms, motor fluctuations and medication timing.

Case scenarios highlight the changing role of the nurse in the ongoing care of a Parkinson’s patient with a focus on cognitive impairment and the involvement of the interdisciplinary team in creating a comprehensive treatment plan.

After completing the module, nurses will be able to:

  • Identify and understand the clinical symptoms of Parkinson’s disease
  • Conduct appropriate nursing assessments and interventions
  • Apply theory to clinical practice and understand and appreciate how the nurse’s role complements the interdisciplinary care team
  • And, neuroscience nurses will be able to build capacity for comprehensive inter-professional care in the treatment of Parkinson’s disease.

Two of the module’s developers from the Montreal Neurological Institute Lucie Lachance RN, MSc., Clinical Nurse Specialist and Jennifer Doran, BN, CNN(C), Nurse Clinician,  delivered much of the module’s content for a Parkinson Canada workshop at the 2015 Canadian Association of Neuroscience Nurses conference. Positive reaction to the workshop confirmed the demand for more training and led to the development of a Parkinson Canada online learning module for all nurses.

“This learning opportunity definitely fills a knowledge gap in nursing, especially among nurses who are not working in neurology,” says Gigi van den Hoef, RN, nursing consultant and a member of Parkinson Canada’s Medical Advisory Committee. “And with the aging population, and the increasing incidence of the disease, more nurses are going to be caring for patients with Parkinson’s.”

Simply learning the language of Parkinson’s can be daunting for patients and their families, says van den Hoef: dystonia, rigidity, dyskinesia. Nurses have a role to play as educators and in helping patients navigate their new reality of living with Parkinson’s.

Gigi van den Hoef will be helping to get the word out to nursing organizations across the country. “The bottom line is that we want to help enhance nursing care for all Canadians living with Parkinson’s,” she says.

Nurses can register for the online learning module by completing the online registration form. The fee of $40 includes the cost of issuing a certificate and provides funds to develop other Parkinson Canada education resources and to fund research.

* Accreditation of the learning module
This event meets the criteria for accreditation established by the Continuing Nursing Professional Education (CNPE) office in the Ingram School of Nursing at McGill University and is approved for a maximum of 2 hours of accredited continuing professional education. The CNPE office is endorsed by the Continuing Professional Development (CPD) office in the Faculty of Medicine.

Bringing the brain back to a healthy balance

Dr. Natasha Radhu
Dr. Natasha Radhu

Increasingly, scientists studying the brain believe one of the reasons abnormalities and diseases develop is the result of an imbalance in two types of circuits, or processes, which regulate the flow of information among brain cells.

At the Toronto Western Research Institute, neurophysiologist Natasha Radhu uses Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) to study those two processes – the brain’s excitatory and inhibitory circuits. She investigates whether an imbalance in the circuits in the motor cortex, the section of the brain that governs movement, is connected to Parkinson’s disease. Radhu has recently been awarded a Porridge for Parkinson’s (Toronto) Basic Research Fellowship of $80,000 over two years from Parkinson Canada Research Program to pursue this research.

TMS involves using a magnetic coil to generate an electrical pulse that stimulates brain cells. Radhu and her colleagues position the coil over the motor cortex in the brain of people with Parkinson’s disease. The pulses cause the muscles of the person they are studying to twitch – twitches the researchers measure. By exciting or inhibiting the muscle twitches, the researchers can indirectly measure the excitatory and inhibitory circuits in the brain. She’s comparing the measurements from the people with Parkinson’s to those of people without the disease.

“It’s a balance of these two (circuits) which indicate healthy brain functioning,” Radhu says.

Radhu measures the degree of movement that occurs in people with Parkinson’s when TMS stimulates their motor cortex while they are on levodopa medication, and when they are off it. She’s testing her theory that when people are off medication, and experience tremors, stiffness, or freezing of gait, she will see increased activity in the excitatory circuits in the brain. At the same time, the inhibitory circuits that stop or calm the flow of information to brain cells will be less active.

Radhu believes her work will demonstrate that when the two circuits are not balanced, people with Parkinson’s disease can’t calm the rapid signals to the area of the brain that directs movement.

By studying the way levodopa affects and changes the brain, Radhu hopes to see how effective the medication is and whether it improves symptoms. She also hopes this measurement of brain activity could eventually diagnose Parkinson’s disease.

“If we’re able to say that certain medications can restore these calming mechanisms and bring the brain back to its healthy balance, we could recommend using these medications more,” she says.

Watch our interview with Dr. Radhu and read about other researchers recently funded by the Parkinson Canada Research Program.

Everyone wins with Parkinson SuperWalk

Lorne Collis, cheering
Lorne Collis, cheering.

We know that most people take part in Parkinson SuperWalk, because they, or someone they care about, is living with Parkinson’s disease. The friends, neighbours, and colleagues of walkers, help out by making pledges to those who walk. Walkers and donors all become Everyday Heroes for those living with Parkinson’s, who are inspired by the contributions of people in their communities and the hope for a cure.

In keeping with our Everyday Heroes. Extraordinary Hope theme we’re again offering our Everyday Heroes contest as part of Parkinson SuperWalk. This year, we’re also naming a ‘National Hero.’ The person you nominate has a chance to lead their local walk as our Parkinson SuperWalk National Hero for 2016! We’re excited to bestow this title and honour on one of our Everyday Heroes for the first time this year. Visit the Everyday Hero contest entry page, share the name of your Everyday Hero, and one sentence about why they are your Everyday Hero. Nominate your inspiration today.

As an added incentive to enter the contest, nominators have the chance to win one of four weekly and one grand prize, provided by our contest sponsor Otago RealLifeFood. Entries will be randomly drawn for a weekly prize of three nutritious, chef-prepared, meals for two for a day and a grand prize of an entire week of dinners for two.

Continuing our Everyday Heroes. Extraordinary Hope theme, our national sponsor Burnbrae Farms is offering a $250 gift basket as the prize for the Eggstraordinary Hope contest. You can enter by completing the form found here or liking a contest post on Parkinson SuperWalk or Burnbrae Farms Facebook pages until August 1.

And finally, congratulations to Lorne Collis of Brampton, Ontario, who won a $500 Roots gift card in our Super Friendraiser draw by sending 156 emails requesting support for his Parkinson SuperWalk efforts through the online participant centre.

We’re grateful to each of our sponsors who have made it possible for us to offer these three meaningful opportunities to win. We know that all of our participants have their own Everyday Heroes that motivate them to walk, and to support Parkinson SuperWalk. We look forward to reading about your own Everyday Hero in our contest and to hearing your stories in person this September.

World Parkinson Congress 2016


A packed schedule of scientific presentations, workshops, plenary sessions, roundtables, discussions and posters, as well as unmatched opportunities to network and socialize with the international Parkinson Community, the World Parkinson Congress 2016 (WPC 2016) is an event you’ll never forget. WPC 2016 will be held in Portland, Oregon from September 20 to 23.

Canada is well represented by a number of speakers, researchers, health professionals and people living with Parkinson’s and their care partners. Parkinson Canada is proud to sponsor the Stanley Fahn Young Investigator Award, to be presented for the first time at WPC 2016. Named after the WPC founder and world renowned Parkinsonologist, the award will be given to one outstanding abstract submitter whose work is deemed cutting edge, novel and shows great promise. The selected person will be invited to be part of the Hot Topics presenters to present their work and will receive an all-expenses-paid participation in WPC 2016.

WPC 2016 participants from Parkinson Canada will also be at booth 508 in the exhibition space. Come by for a visit. For all the details, and to register, visit

Presented by the World Parkinson Coalition, the World Parkinson Congress is the only global Parkinson’s conference that brings together the entire Parkinson’s community – people with Parkinson’s disease, those who care for them, medical and health professionals, and dedicated researchers working toward a cure and better treatments. Parkinson Canada is a proud member of the World Parkinson Coalition and Canadians regularly attend and participate in the World Parkinson Congress.