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Quality and quantity

Fresh from the NiP Event in London, Marilyn Eveleigh reflects on what was a great two days for everyone involved, and applauds the large number of high-calibre delegates who attended

For the past two days I've been in London chairing the NIP Event in Islington. Over 1,000 nurses working in the community and primary care attended. A straw poll indicated that the majority were practice nurses but community matrons, school nurses, prison nurses, independent nursing home nurses, health visitors, midwives and psychiatric nurses made up the rest. There were very few district nurses, but there were significant nurse practitioners - a sign of the times, I wonder?

Three things in particular about the Event got me thinking about nursing roles - and our readership in particular.

First, the programme was broad and varied, reflecting the generalist roles that come with the specialist disciplines the delegates held. If that sounds like a contradiction in itself, think again. We may have specialist areas of work - practice nursing, community matron roles or prison nurses - but our patients' needs are best met where we have a generalist knowledge or shallow skill base over a wide range of conditions.  

Patients ask about boils and benefits, asthma and angina, disability badges and diabetes, all the Heps, herpes and HiB, as well as travel vacs and threadworms! We provide screening such as cytology, offer testing and diagnosis such as COPD and leg ulcers, give treatment for wounds and warts, as well as monitoring weight reduction and atopy.

As primary and community nurses, we are considered the most readily accessible experts in all chronic diseases, covering the needs of all age groups from newborns to the very aged. And if it's health promotion or any public health immunisation programme that is required, we are considered "suitably positioned" to provide it.

Yes, the NIP Event touched on or provided indepth knowledge on all of these areas - because that is what our patients need from us.  

None of us can be skilled in every area to meet all patients' needs all of the time. Our unique role is to be able to give some advice, treatment or care at the consultation or opportunistically - but be clear on appropriate referral and/or signposting when it lies outside our competency.  

The second thing was the high calibre of delegate questions to the specialist speakers - they impressed the experts and their answers strengthened our expertise. Delegates offered their own successes and practical suggestions to support patient care and I was really impressed with the links nurse made and obstacles that have been overcome when often working in relative isolation.

And third was the age profile of the audience, which perhaps had the most dramatic impact on me. I hope I'm not offending anyone but from what I could see the majority of delegates were over 40 years old, all due to retire in the next 20 years - but a true reflection of the nursing workforce. Such a wealth of skills, knowledge and experience will leave with them. I'm sure younger nurses attend learning events, but they must have been back at base on this occasion - no doubt being the specialist generalists that primary and community nurses do best.

Look out for future NIP Events - they are on this website.