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Profile: Practice nurse improvement advisor

A nurse with a keen eye for innovation, Jenny Wilson was just the ticket when the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) began looking for a nursing improvement advisor. 

Her role revolves around Productive General Practice, an approach which she believes can dramatically streamline the way a practice is run. 

Productive General Practice is a practice-based improvement learning framework that all staff take part in, giving an easy step-by-step guide on how to reduce wasted time, with the aim of improving care for the patient. 

Jenny said: “With longer consultations, aging populations and all of the complications that are coming into general practice at the minute, this programme aims to help practices deal with waste, increasing levels of demand and the diverse expectations.

“Productive General Practice is very much established now, but I've been brought in to target a whole new group of people.” 

The programme , run by the Scottish Government's Quality and Efficiency Support Team, working together with RCGP, has been around since 2011, but just last year started looking for a nurse to join the team of ambassadors, which already included GPs, and a practice and quality manager. Jenny's role involves rolling out the system and other quality improvement programmes to practices.

“The application process was quite daunting, but when you're going for a completely new role it often is!” she said. 

According to Jenny, nurses have a key role in streamlining the way that practices work, which is why Productive General Practice is so important.

“To say that this system would only be suited for practice managers and GPs would go against the whole ethos of the system. It's a whole systems working. If you want to make changes in a practice the whole team needs to be educated on what the practice is trying to achieve and how we're trying to achieve it. 

“Practice nurses are a key part of the practice, we have an essential part to play in implementing this programme. Nurses who've been through it have said it gives a stronger voice to practice nurses, giving them the opportunity to help develop improvements in their practice. By participating in Productive General Practice, practice nurses can develop skills which will then give opportunities to help shape improvements in their own practices.” 

Though Jenny works in a practice in East Kilbride just outside of Glasgow three days a week, she also has a role as a general practice nurse educational supervisor for NHS Education for Scotland. In fact, she cites this role as one of the key reasons she wanted to help with Productive General Practice. 

“Working as a practice nurse education supervisor inspired me to improve my own care, and when I saw the RCGP job come up I thought - that will allow me to learn at the same time as I educate others on how they can improve general practice.” 

Education in practice nursing seems to be important to 37-year-old Jenny, as she believes education is key to improving care in general practice. 

“I'm passionate about improving care for patients. I feel, with practice nurses in particular, if we're given the tools to improve our care we will jump at it! We're very motivated to improve care for our patients, and if we have a problem we can introduce change for the better. I think the practice nurse population is very receptive to that.” 

Delivered and funded by NHS Education for Scotland, the Practice Nurse Education Programme offers nurses new to working in general practice the chance to develop knowledge in areas such as travel vaccines, asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease that they may not have had a chance to use before, but are vital for working as a practice nurse. 

The reason this scheme, now in its pilot year, is so close to her heart is that initially her own learning in primary care was fragmented. 

“I was in my post, then I did my diploma, then I came back to general practice and went to do another diploma. But what this programme does is provide a proper overview of these important areas, giving a really good knowledge base for practice nursing.” 

The chance to meet with other practice nurses and have a mentor for the length of the programme is just as important as the clinical skills learned, Jenny believes. In her experience, working as a practice nurse can be quite isolating. 

“Especially if you're in one of the remote and rural areas, it's isolating. But this provides a proper network for the nurses that are in the programme - there are 12 at the moment. Peer support and peer learning are absolutely essential.” 

Just as Productive General Practice brings practices through a step-by-step programme for improvement and the Practice Nurse Education scheme methodically gives nurses a way to gather skills, Jenny's specialism - chronic disease management - is all about managing care to get the best out of people. 

“What I enjoy most about nursing is caring for my patients with chronic disease. I've been in my post a long time now, and I can see patients through from diagnosis and really go with them through their entire journey with chronic disease.

“Nursing has always had more of an interest than other jobs in healthcare for me. It's exciting. Sometimes you just can't put your finger on it.” 



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