So, you need some continuing professional development (CPD). But how are you going to get it? Where are you going to access this training? And, most importantly of all, how are you going to persuade your practice to provide the CPD?
The Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) Code (2015) requires registered nurses to uphold the reputation of their profession. To achieve this, nurses must keep their knowledge and skills up-to-date, which means taking part in appropriate, regular learning and professional development activities with the aim of maintaining and developing competence and improving performance. But in these hard-pressed times, the workload for nurses in primary care is ever-increasing. This often means that nurses face difficulty in locating appropriate training or requesting the time off to meet their training needs.
In 2015, the Queen’s Nursing Institute released a report summarising the challenges and opportunities facing the general practice nursing role. It found that more than 40% of nurses felt their team had not been appropriately trained or qualified to meet patient needs. More than half of the nurses completing this survey had not updated their mentorship training for more than three years. The result of a lapse in mentorship may mean fewer mentors in GP practices, which could reduce the number of student placements available in practices as well as in other areas of nursing.
As part of the revalidation process that took effect in April 2016, nurses are required to complete 35 hours of CPD. Without it, a nurse cannot remain on the professional register, meaning they would be unable to continue working.
Practice nurses generally have a wide range of clinical skills, including treatment room duties, and managing long-term and acute conditions, so generally the role will differ vastly and therefore training needs must be tailored to fit the nurse. As a result, nurses may be responsible for sourcing their own courses.
How to convince your practice to pay for CPD
In 2017, the chief nursing officer for England launched the general practice nursing 10-point plan, designed to recognise the general practice nurse role and increase their ability to transform care. This improves services for patients while ensuring the NHS is fit for the future. The plan states that all nurses have a duty to lead change and add value to patient care, but how can we do this without education?
Linking the 10-point plan to your education is one way to help bring about change. The following points from the plan can be used to evidence the need for further education when convincing your practice to provide CPD (see table 1).
Table 1: GPN 10-point plan
GPN Point 2 – ‘Extend Leadership and educator roles’
Nurses are uniquely placed to influence both patients and colleagues’ lives. Education is a key skill in improving leadership.
GPN Point 7 – ‘Support and access to educational programmes’
By supporting you to access educational programmes, your employer is achieving one requirement of the GPN 10-point plan.
GPN Point 8 – ‘Increase access to clinical academic careers and advanced clinical practice programmes including nurses working in advanced practice roles within general practice’
Education improves the career pathways of nurses in practice by providing the opportunity to become a specialist chronic disease nurse or an advanced nurse practitioner.
GPN Point 9 – ‘Develop healthcare support worker (HCSW), apprenticeship and nursing associate career pathways’
Practice nurses can use their education to support the Health Care Support Workers’ learning and development.
GPN Point 10 – ‘Improve retention’
Education means long-term investment in your staff. This promotes a good working environment where staff feel valued and will want to stay.
Our top tips as nurse educators are linked to the 10-point plan. Firstly, do your homework. Identify the courses required to keep you competent and safe to work. Check your contract of employment for details on any education requirements that apply to you and your employer. And do not forget to use the Royal College of Nursing and NMC requirements for revalidation to help negotiate with your employer.
Ensure you get off to the right start by asking at a convenient time. For example, avoid striking up the conversation during a CQC visit. It is also a good idea to present your request in writing, which is a formal rather than informal approach. Similarly, be realistic with your request. For example, if five nurses are already trained in COPD, and the surgery is willing to provide training in diabetes, think about asking for the training that will benefit the surgery. After all, GP practices are small businesses that require good business planning to keep afloat.
When communicating with your employer, address their concerns from the start. Common worries from their perspective include backfilling cost and your ability to learn and work at the same time. You might be able to compromise; for example, changing your hours to accommodate the course, or helping to fund it yourself if the practice gives you time to attend. This shows that you are willing to improve your knowledge.
Likewise, develop a strong case on the advantages the course will bring you, the practice and ultimately the patients; for example, the benefits of acquiring a new skill and the ways this can save the practice time and money, such as helping cut down on appointment times. If you know someone who has done the same or a similar course, can you get a testimony from them or their employer to show how it has improved patient care?
You could also provide a cost breakdown of how the CPD will benefit the practice financially, alongside researching and comparing prices of the course. Or create a business plan that not only includes financial and time gain for the practice, but how the course allows you to network to find and share best practice.
When negotiating the course, it is important to take into consideration what learning is relevant to your skillset and fits within your GP business plan. Ensure you use clinical supervision or appraisal to put forward your training needs every year so that your employer is aware of them.
It is also worth remembering that if you or your employer are struggling with paying for courses, there is usually learning beyond registration funding set aside for this purpose. Speak to your CCG or training hub for further advice regarding this funding.
Be enthusiastic and have a positive outlook on what you are asking for, as this can encourage other staff to feel the same.
Sandra Hawkins, Dina Goy and Judith Pashley are all practice nurses and nurse educators at Cambridgeshire and Peterborough training hub.