Giving student nurses their own clinics in general practices could improve patients’ access to some services, a new study has suggested.
It could also promote general practice nursing as a ‘first destination’ job after graduating and help to address a ‘particularly acute shortfall’ in general practice nurses (GPNs) in the UK, research led by the University of Plymouth indicates.
‘It is imperative to attract more registered nurses to this occupational group,’ the study, which was published in the BMC Nursing journal in September, said.
In addition, it pointed to workforce projections which suggest a shortfall of around 6,400 GPNs by 2030/31 unless investment is given.
Student nurses ‘do not necessarily see [general practice nursing] as an appropriate job destination on graduation,’ the research highlights, adding that exposure to this field of nursing ‘can have a positive influence on their perceptions of it as a first destination’.
However, there has previously been ‘reluctance’ for general practices to host student nurses on placement, the study recognised, adding that it has ‘become imperative to increase placement capacity if practices are to be able to recruit a future workforce’.
As part of the study funded by the now disbanded Health Education England (HEE), 31 student nurses were placed into six general practices in three primary care networks for Collaborative Learning in Practice (CLIP).
CLIP is ‘a means of organising placement learning for student nurses using a coaching model that allows for leadership development, peer support and earlier engagement in patient care’, the study explained.
‘Once in placement, students typically work in small teams, often including third year students taking a leadership role at the head of a group of students,’ it said.
A ‘central drive’ in the popularity of CLIP is that it increases placement capacity, the research acknowledged, ‘with clinical areas in previous studies supporting approximately three or four times the numbers of students in CLIP placements than at other times’.
The aims of the study were to implement and evaluate CLIP in general practice nursing settings, to explore issues of inter-professional learning, and to explore patient access to services related to increased student nurse capacity.
Students were able to ‘interact with other students, share their experiences and work collaboratively, whilst knowing there was appropriate supervision available close by’, the study found.
In addition, ‘students were able to link up and work with a wide range of professionals, and in different ways than might be possible in an in-hospital placement or another community setting’.
Meanwhile, having their own clinics had ‘implications for students’ confidence as independent practitioners, as well as having an impact on their relationship to [general practice nursing] as a potential job destination, and for improving patients’ access to certain services which students were able to deliver’, the study found.
These services included blood tests, patient monitoring reviews, simple dressings, observations and ECGs.
The data indicates that ‘students leading their own clinics increased the clinic numbers available by approximately 20% compared to when students were not in placement’, the study said.
It added: ‘Students in our study discussed how their [general practice nursing] experiences had made them see it as a potential job destination, partly because of the better sense of belonging that they encountered, but also because of the range of activities they were able to undertake and the relative autonomy they enjoyed.’
In conclusion, the study said: ‘The project was successful in increasing capacity, and students valued their time in general practice, believing it enhanced their learning by enabling peer support, inter-professional working and beneficial responsibility when practising in their own clinics.
‘Having outlined the international, national and local context of shortages of nurses in [general practice nursing] settings, pressures to recruit nurses and make [general practice nursing] an attractive first job destination, we argue that it is appropriate to implement and evaluate CLIP in GPN placements in our regions.
‘Student nurses are the future workforce of any organisation, and recruitment needs to be strengthened.’