We know the benefits of work in general practice, but these can be hard to explain to those in other sectors. Gemma Bird advises on making the case to nurses potentially considering the role
The role of the general practice nurse has changed dramatically over the years. The learning and development opportunities are vast, and the way in which general practice is moving forward means there is even greater scope for nurses to develop professionally.
The new integrated care boards (ICBs) encourage better collaborative working with community and secondary care, which supports a more cohesive system to care for our patients, from first point of contact through to discharge and back to us in primary care.
Like all jobs within healthcare, the work is not without stress. Covid has significantly impacted our workload, and our ways of working have adapted to meet new demands on an already stretched system.
A fast-developing role
Although a stressful role at times, there are great opportunities both professionally and personally to develop. The practice nurse role allows you to build strong patient relationships and be part of a local community, through health promotion programmes and gaining understanding of how to support your local populations’ health needs.
The demands on primary care are growing but this is recognised nationally, and programmes and funding are coming from Health Education England to support our nursing workforce with recruitment, retention of our skilled colleagues and guidance for nurses wishing to return to practice.
Many roles that have been routinely undertaken by practice nurses are now being carried out by our competent and skilled healthcare assistant colleagues and nursing associates.
Practice nurses are gradually moving from just task-focused appointments towards managing more complex patients, with many taking over from GPs on review and management of patients with long-term conditions, such as diabetes, asthma and COPD.
Some practice nurses do not choose to focus on chronic condition management, and may instead conduct minor illness clinics. Some sign up for an advanced clinical practice masters degree pathway.
Not only do we have practice nurses moving forward professionally in a clinical capacity, but we also have many practice nurses opting for a portfolio career and taking on other roles alongside their clinical one. This includes leadership and management – for example, PCN lead nurses and clinical directors, nurse leads and managers within their practice.
Some are also undertaking educational and training roles to support future nurses and other colleagues.
The possibilities are endless and the opportunities to mould your professional career to fit you and your home life are becoming more accessible for many of us.
What to do next if you feel practice nursing could be for you
• Research the role
Make sure you fully understand how a typical working day might look and ensure it is an area that interests you.
• Search for jobs
Jobs can be found on NHS jobs website, but are also advertised on local medical committee websites and occasionally national jobs sites. Search for current jobs on Pulse Practice Jobs.
• Contact your local primary care training hub
Every area has one and they can normally offer advice on local jobs, GP nurse fundamentals training and CPD. They have funding streams available once you are in a role.
• Update your CV and send in those applications
Many practices will ask for experienced practice nurses but do not be put off by that. We have a national shortage of practice nurses, and we need to support the recruitment and development of new nurses into the system. There is various training and funding available nationally to support you and the practice that hires you, to train and upskill you with everything you need for the role.
• Find a mentor
Once you have secured yourself a position, ensure you have the support of a mentor, either internally or externally, such as other practice nurses within your PCN.
• Research other support
Look at local opportunities to undertake restorative clinical supervision and contact your local professional nurse advocate.
• Build up your experience
Reflect often, and remember there is a lot to learn and that takes time. Start with the basics and build up gradually – and enjoy the ride!
Gemma Bird is practice nurse lead for Nottingham and Nottinghamshire ICB, hosted by Nottinghamshire Alliance Training Hub, co-opted practice nurse for Nottinghamshire LMC, and part-time general practice nurse