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Climbing the leadership ladder

Practice nursing in the alien world of Covid-19

Katherine Parker

The Covid-19 pandemic brings with it many challenges for primary care. Our tried and tested ways of working, as well as seeing and reviewing patients, that have been cemented over many years now need to be revised, altered and adapted for new ways of working.

Our aim is to keep our staff and patients safe and reduce risk – but still strive to provide the same quality of care that we previously had during face-to-face consultations. We find ourselves working in different ways but aiming to ensure clinical governance and evidence-based care aren’t compromised.

For the general practice nurse who has been around for some time, this is really different, challenging time. As nurses, we have forever touched, palpated, observed and carried out tasks such as checking blood pressure, pulse and respiration. We are usually further guided by peak flow, spirometry, pulse oximetry and our powers of observation.

But all of a sudden, the human tools on which relied so strongly upon are not there. Those new to general practice are consolidating theory to practice in what seems an alien environment, one where telephone and video consultations rule, and face-to-face consultations only take place if urgent and necessary.

We have managed to obtain personal protective equipment so we can continue to see patients. We have changed our clinic schedules having one clinical room for face-to-face appointments with 30-minute sessions (the lengthier time is to incorporate seeing patients and cleaning surfaces and equipment in-between). Juggling full PPE, we are administering immunisations, which is even more challenging for our pre-school boosters and with 3-and-a-half year-olds. We are also consulting via telephone and video. Patients expectations are changing too. No more are they relying on a face-to-face appointment but are embracing technology and the modern – or pandemic – way.

This is far placed from our 15-minute asthma reviews and 30-minute diabetic reviews of the past. Who said we should do B12s injections in the car park? No one ever before. Who advocated telephone reviews for pill checks or COPD via video? No one ever before. But here we are adapting our ways to the changing, spinning world and you know what? We are doing a good job.

For example, I have had a virtual meeting with my fellow primary care network of nurses, bringing nurses together from a local area without the need for a formal meeting or room booking. Some are working from home and some in surgery but all are striving to move forward and embrace the technology.

I applaud myself and each and every GPN colleague. In the last three months, we have transformed general practice. Much of what we are doing now I feel will be embedded and kept for post-pandemic times. Never before have we been more grateful for colleague opinion and networking. This is so vital for our current restrictions and future role. This amazing role just got even more challenging but still oh-so-rewarding and with immense job satisfaction.

Katherine Parker is a practice nurse based in Stockport.