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‘Digital awareness’ vital for new GPNs to help influence use across practices

‘Digital awareness’ vital for new GPNs to help influence use across practices
A panel of leading nurses at Digital Health Rewired, including Rachel Viggars, second from left, and Gill Boast, third from left

Nurses new to general practice should take on ‘digital championship’ from the beginning of their careers to ensure they instil digital ways of working in their GP practices as they go forward, a conference has heard.

Strategic nurse lead and programme director of the GPN Foundation School in Staffordshire Rachel Viggars was speaking at the Digital Health Rewired conference this week when she flagged the importance of embedding digital awareness, confidence and training in GPNs ‘from the start’.

Ms Viggars and GPN lead and facilitator Gill Boast – who also helps lead the Staffordshire GPN school – featured on a panel on Tuesday exploring how digital is being approached from different areas of the community, including primary care.

The pair discussed how they believe the school – which aims to standardise training for GPNs and was launched in September – can ‘really influence the use of digital technology’.

As part of the year-long school programme, which is aimed at newly registered nurses and nurses new to general practice, they are given ‘protected time’ to learn about digital systems, including those for documenting care and helping with audits, explained Ms Boast.

They are also given ‘digital upskilling’ days which Ms Boast said aimed to help them ‘move their practices on with technology’, such as through group consultations for patients with long-term conditions.

GPNs on the programme were also being taught how to use different devices, such as a 30-second check ECG machine which can be used to check for atrial fibrillation. Nurses were using these machines within flu clinics, for example, as a ‘quick way to do a quick check’ and to help prevent cardiovascular disease prevention, added Ms Boast.

We’ve also demonstrated to them little devices such as this one which is just a 30 second check with just this one is just a one lead ECG, and there are updated versions now or give sickly, and that’s a very quick way of of doing a check for atrial fibrillation. And we’ve used that in your flu clinics, for instance. And it’s been a very quick way just to do a quick check. And it’s helped us with our cardiovascular disease prevention, as well.

Meanwhile, Ms Viggars said nurses on the school programme were ‘leaders of the future’ and that embedding awareness, training and education of digital tools ‘from the start’ of their careers was key to growing the digital agenda across primary care.

‘As we get new staff coming through, they are becoming more and more digitally aware, and they’re not frightened to use the technology,’ she added.

‘It’s just making sure they know what is out there, how they can use it relevant to each patient.

‘It’s really about that awareness, training and how to use the equipment properly, and how to access it.’

Ms Viggars added: ‘What we’re seeing with the nurses on our school is that they’re the leaders of the future. And if they can take on digital championship now, then what they’re going to be doing is automatically instilling that in their practices as they go forward.’

As a GPN of 23 years, and having seen the transition from paper to computer systems, Ms Viggars said being able to implement digital tools and ‘see the difference it makes to patients’ has been ‘quite dramatic’.

It was also her view that additional roles in general practice, such as nursing associates and care coordinators, could help ‘capture the data’ required for GPNs to undertake, for example, a long-term condition review ‘in a more detailed way’.

As part of the conference this week, nursing leaders also highlighted the need for action to be taken to ensure there are more digital nurse leaders, including chief nursing information officers, across community and primary care settings.

Our exclusive manifesto for GPNs focused on the need for general practice to ‘continue to evolve to serve patients better, adopting approved digital platforms and applications to improve patient care and outcomes’.


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