The ‘never-ending’ contribution and unique role of nurses working in general practice has been spotlighted this International Nurses Day (IND).
As nurses from around the world come together to celebrate this annual day – which marks the anniversary of the birth of Florence Nightingale – Nursing in Practice has spoken to nurses across primary care as well as leaders among the profession about the importance of raising the profile of nurses and recognising the work they do.
Dr Crystal Oldman, chief executive of the Queen’s Nursing Institute (QNI), said: ‘There is no general practice without general practice nurses.’
She stressed that GPNs ‘should be at every policy table where general practice is being discussed’.
‘Otherwise, it is ‘nursing work as imagined’ rather than ‘nursing work as done’ that will be under discussion.’
Her comments come after concerns were raised this week that GPNs were overlooked in the new primary care recovery plan published by NHS England and the government.
Meanwhile, Debbie Brown, a GPN and clinical director of Lewisham CEPN Training Hub, told Nursing in Practice that she would like general practice nursing to have more of a profile in the media.
‘We can be the solution to many of the access problems with our wealth of experience,’ Ms Brown said.
‘This is the one day where we can be very proud and say ‘actually, we do an amazing job’.
‘It may be quiet, we may not get talked about, but the difference we can make for our patients and their families is absolutely never-ending.’
In addition, Gill Boast, GPN and Staffordshire Training Hub practice nurse facilitator, said: ‘International Nurses Day is a great opportunity to thank all nurses across the world and to highlight the value of the role of the GPN.’
Also speaking to Nursing in Practice, professional lead for primary care at the Royal College of Nursing Heather Randle said she felt GPNs had been ‘quite invisible’ during the coronavirus pandemic.
‘We don’t seem to see what the practice nurse does,’ Ms Randal said. ‘But if you ask a patient who has had their life saved by a GPN then they will know what that nurse can do.’
Ms Randal said that ‘leadership is key’ to build up the profile of GPNs and that a nursing director should be on every integrated care board.
IND is spearheaded by the International Council of Nurses (ICN) which every year leads a targeted campaign to mark the occasion. The focus this year is: ‘Our Nurses. Our Future’ and sets out the ICN’s vision for nursing in the future to help address global health challenges and improve global health for all.
Speaking to Nursing in Practice, ICN chief executive Howard Catton said: ‘This is an opportunity to bring attention to the reality of modern nursing, and to talk about what we need to do to support the profession now and moving into the future.’
While IND provided an important opportunity to remember the ‘unprecedented’ impact that Covid-19 has had on the international nursing workforce, there was also an opportunity to highlight the ‘very optimistic and positive future for nurses’.
‘When you look at all of the health challenges that we face, it is overwhelmingly nursing work,’ he told Nursing in Practice, meaning that nurses have potential to expand their roles and take on more of a leadership position in global healthcare.
‘Through the pandemic people have started to shift their views on the reality of nursing. But a constant block is the reluctance [for governments] to sign the cheque to invest into the healthcare workforce.’
Separately, in a social media video today Dame Ruth May, chief nursing officer for England, said: ‘I want to say thank you to all the incredible colleagues who are part of our nursing profession across health and social care.
‘As the largest collective professional group in the NHS, nurses and midwives are such an integral part of our NHS workforce.
‘Across all settings, you play a crucial role in transforming how we are delivering services, tackling health inequalities, and ensuring people get the best possible care.’
Likewise, chief nursing officer for Wales Sue Tranka said that she felt ‘privileged to share this day with you once again as CNO for Wales’.
Ms Tranka added: ‘Wherever you practice you continue to make a huge difference despite the challenges and pressures you face day in and day out, so after the last three years of unprecedented pressures I want to reiterate how immeasurably proud and appreciative I am of our nurses.’
In addition, chief nurse for adult social care Professor Deborah Sturdy, said in a blog post that this year ‘celebrating who we are, what we stand for and the amazing contribution we make to the health and wellbeing of our communities is more important than ever’.
Professor Sturdy said that nurses needed to be ‘advocates for our profession’ and to ‘use our passion and excitement about nursing to encourage others and facilitate opportunities for young people to glimpse into our world’.
She also noted that she was currently receiving treatment from a nursing team and was ‘blown away by their knowledge, skill and interest in what they are doing’.
For leaders in the nursing profession, IND is also a time to highlight the global impact of the nursing profession.
‘The profession is an international profession,’ said deputy chief executive of the Florence Nightingale Foundation, Professor Gemma Stacey.
‘There is huge amounts of migration among the nursing workforce and there is no issue that we are dealing with in health and social care that we can consider in isolation of its wider context,’ she told Nursing in Practice.
However, in the UK in particular, Professor Stacey said there was a need to raise the public image of the nursing profession.
‘I think currently the public image of nursing is quite negative. What we see in the media is demonstrating the challenging working conditions and the strains on the health system,’ she said.
‘What that does is paint a very bleak picture of the profession. It is particularly important this year to use the platform of IND to recognise that there is still a positive and motivated workforce amongst all those challenges.’