Following on from the General Practice Forward View, we now have the Ten point action plan for general practice nursing outlining the future requirements to address the development of this highly regarded nursing workforce.
The plan identifies the need to increase confidence and capability as well as capacity in relation to high quality placements in general practice for pre-registration students which is essential if they are to be exposed to this area of practice and consider it as a worthwhile career.
General practice is able to provide a real insight into prevention, screening and management of chronic disease, all of which are key areas of public health and health promotion. Placements like this also enable understanding of the complex needs of populations and the diversity within them and provide a unique privilege to work with families across the lifespan.
Improving access to Return to Practice programmes is also identified as a way of supporting nurses who will have left or taken a break in their career for a wide range of reasons and may wish to return. There is also recognition of the need to robust induction and preceptorship programmes to support the transition from hospital to community and primary care settings which many nurses can find daunting but with the right support and mentorship can be achieved.
Here in the North West, there have been great strives to undertake some of these initiatives with bespoke programmes and continuing professional development (CPD) opportunities to enable nurses new to general practice to make that transition, but more needs to be done nationally.
Many practices are recruiting trainee practice nurses and are committed to developing the workforce given that many existing practice nurses will be retiring within the next 10 years. However, this is not a new phenomenon and one which I remember discussing with GPs over a decade ago as a GPN facilitator so it’s not a surprise but the issue is now becoming more serious as many practices struggle to recruit to fill the gap of nurses with many years’ experience.
Recruitment and retention need to be addressed as well as consistency in relation to terms and conditions so that GPNs are recognised for their expertise and commitment to develop in the role. The reality is that recruitment and retention will remain an issue if these things are not addressed and brought in line with nurses and other health care professionals working in secondary care.
If you are considering a career in primary care here are some top tips to help you:
- Make sure your CV is reflective of your experience and consider the transferable skills you have which will make employers consider you. For example, if you are coming from an A&E background you will have excellent communication skills, experience of chronic conditions such as diabetes, administration of vaccines e.g. immunoglobulin’s and so on.
- Contact local practices and ask if you can shadow a practice nurse and other members of the primary health care team to gain insight.
- Get up to date with key policy affecting the development of primary care such as the Quality and Outcomes Framework (QOF), commissioning, Care Quality Commission (CQC), and importantly find out what is being done locally to address the health needs of the area’s population and match your skills and expertise to that.
These are just some of the things that will prepare you for that all important interview and a future career in primary and community care.