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Ninja Nurse: Katy Smyth

What makes you a Ninja Nurse?

Profile: Katy Smyth


  • Practice nurse
  • Lecturer, University of Central Lancashire
  • Queen’s Nurse
  • Member of RCN General Practice Nursing Forum steering committee


  • Chronic disease management
  • Diabetes
  • Respiratory disease


  • BSc nursing studies
  • Postgraduate diploma community nursing specialist practitioner general practice nursing
  • Postgraduate certificate practice teacher
  • MSc practice enhancement general practice nursing
  • V300 independent and supplementary prescriber
  • Associate fellow of the Higher Education Academy

I held the position of vice chair of the North West practice nurse association for several years, which allowed me to promote educational opportunities within practice nursing, facilitating learning across academic and practice environments. I remain active in supporting the group and attend the monthly meetings. Through teaching on the practice nurse foundation course, I am able to support new practice nurses who are often isolated within clinical practice, steering them into local forums to access educational opportunities and clinical supervision.

I taught as a lecturer on the general practice nurse foundation course on an ad hoc basis before taking up a full-time teaching post 18 months ago. Since starting my role in education, I have undertaken focus groups with members from the local practice nurse forum, collecting data to help develop new educational opportunities and a degree pathway. I was part of a team that successfully won a bid to provide a bespoke return to practice programme for practice nurses and I am currently involved in teaching and supporting these students.

Increasing placement opportunities for student nurses within general practice is high on my agenda and I am working to identify practice nurses and surgeries that are keen to develop mentorship opportunities. My vision is to attract a new generation of nurses into primary care. In order to succeed I feel we need to develop a wide range of practice placements for student nurses and promote mentorship within the community nurses role.

Over the past 12 months, I have become a Queen’s nurse and joined the Royal College of Nursing’s general practice nursing forum committee.

I continue to work within the clinical environment as often as possible. Keeping my clinical days in practice is paramount to me as a nurse and keeps me focused on the realisms of nursing.

Have you ever had to use your Ninja Nurse powers to rescue a GP?

The GPs regularly approach me to discuss aspects of chronic disease management with myself and other nurses on the team as we take a lead role in this area. I feel that the GPs acknowledge and appreciate the fact that practice nurses are autonomous practitioners that have developed very specialist in-depth knowledge.

Why do you think practice nurses are ‘ninjas’?

Practice nurses need to develop and maintain specialist knowledge in many fields. This requires determination, commitment and passion. They need leadership qualities and are often at the forefront of initiatives and care, which is often unnoticed. They work autonomously, frequently in isolation, which demands a range of ninja skills. Community practice requires enhanced skills and expertise and I feel it is important to celebrate this.

What would you like to see changed in order to increase appreciation for practice nursing?

I strongly believe that we need to raise the profile of practice nursing, to address the retention and recruitment crisis currently being faced within general practice. I really feel that now is the time for practice nurses to be recognised, celebrated, developed and supported, which in turn will enhance the care they provide.

Do you regularly work overtime or through your breaks?

I rarely leave work on time because I spend my consultation time giving the patient 100%. For many patients the limited time that they spend with you may be their only point of care. Practice nurses are excellent at undertaking holistic assessments and often end up identifying other health needs that require attention.

Are you involved in any practice initiatives?

I actively undertake audits at work and strive to improve healthcare delivery. I look for opportunities to change practice and support others to make a significant impact. In recent years, I audited the overuse of salbutamol inhalers prompted by the National Review of Asthma Deaths.

Attending a CPD event on diabetes motivated me and a colleague to undertake an audit identifying patients most at risk of severe hypoglycaemia within the community. This has resulted in a variety of community health professionals working together in new ways to review and action individualised management plans. The improvements made to patient care have been tremendous and the audit has highlighted a vulnerable group of patients within the community that require continued support. The findings of the audit have been shared and included as part of a larger piece of work, which was been listed for a national safety award.

Would you encourage other nurses to move into general practice in 2018?

Most definitely yes! Following the publication of the QNI survey and standards, and the 10-point plan, I believe that many changes have been set in motion to improve working conditions within general practice. Practice nurses now have a career pathway and access to educational opportunities that are standardised and recognised by the wider primary care team. The opportunities for professional development are vast and varied. No two practice nurses perform the same role, which makes general practice an exciting and diverse environment in which to work. I believe that the future of community nursing is an exciting place to be and I relish the opportunity to be part of it.