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RCN: Public health nurses need to value themselves more

Public health nursing has a vital role and skills to offer that can go unrecognised by leaders and even themselves, the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) said.

This should not be seen as a niche or separate area of practice, and many aspects of their work should be more articulated by nurses and leaders, the College found in a new report.

It read: “Nurses have enhanced assessment skills which are not always recognised, even by themselves. These need to be better identified and acknowledged as a key part of the unique role nurses have in wider public health work.”

The report also included a survey of more than 200 leaders and commissioners, who agreed that they need to be valued more. One commissioner said: “They have assessment skills, real grounded assessment skills which can actually look at what the need is first and also work with the patient and what they think they can achieve in the short term and what they can achieve in the longer term, empowering people.”

The main reasons that local leaders gave for utilising nursing in public health services were because nurses were seen as care specialists, because of their competence and communication skills, and local knowledge relevant to commissioning public health services.

However, there is a significant gulf between the issues where nursing expertise could be used to good effect, and the issues where such expertise is readily available.

Public health nurses need to be “skilled-up” so they can work with commissioners to help create changes that reflect their sector, eg set meaningful key performance indicators, service level agreements and local incentive targets (such as CQUINs (Commissioning for Quality and Innovation)), the report recommended.