Career advice

Advanced practice and hands-on care: the nursing specialty you might not have considered

Urology nursing is facing the challenges of COVID-19 with ‘courage in the face of adversity’

Urology nursing is facing the challenges of COVID-19 with an education plan and courage in the face of adversity

When a patient asked me recently why I had chosen urology nursing, my answer was that I found myself working in urology because I wanted a change from spinal injury nursing, a specialty closely entwined with urology.

Perhaps the question should have been, why have you stayed in urology nursing?

Urology nursing is a broad specialty

When I started my nurse training in the 1980s, it was unusual for a nurse to perform male catheterisation. This was frustrating because we were more than capable back then, nurses were treating patients holistically before we even knew the word.

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Urology nursing is facing the challenges of COVID-19 with an education plan and ‘courage in the face of adversity’

Illistration showing a urology ward, with a nurse and a patient sitting on a bed
Picture: iStock

When a patient asked me recently why I had chosen urology nursing, my answer was that I ‘found’ myself working in urology because I wanted a change from spinal injury nursing, a specialty closely entwined with urology.

Perhaps the question should have been, why have you stayed in urology nursing?

Urology nursing is a broad specialty

When I started my nurse training in the 1980s, it was unusual for a nurse to perform male catheterisation. This was frustrating because we were more than capable – back then, nurses were treating patients holistically before we even knew the word.

Urology nursing has certainly evolved since my early career. I have been a uro-oncology nurse specialist for more than ten years and advanced practice roles are now commonplace in many urology centres in the UK.

A broad ranging specialty, with benign and cancer sub-specialties, it includes nurse-led cystoscopy services, nurses performing prostate biopsy and minor urological surgery, and nurse-led clinics for various urological conditions.

Urology nursing is hugely rewarding because it fulfils one of the main ambitions we have as nurses – to help patients in need in a very hands-on way. As demanding as it can be, it is an exciting specialty with a strong element of practical nursing skill.

Audits of advanced urological nursing practice demonstrate that not only have the standards matched those of medical-led services, patient satisfaction levels for nurse-led investigative procedures and treatments are high.

But these advances in the clinical skills of urology nurses did not happen overnight.

Professional association has helped to build the specialty

The British Association of Urological Nurses (BAUN), which marks its 25th anniversary this year, has played a major role in the development of the specialty.

Since its inception in 1995, BAUN has been inspiring nurses in the urological setting to network and come together to promote high standards in urological nursing care. It remains a driving force in the development of advanced clinical skills, knowledge, competence and attributes, both at core level and specific to the context in which we practice.

The association provides study days and workshops at its annual conference and has co-produced guidelines for urological nursing to promote evidence-based and standardised clinical practice.

We have forged strong links with partners and colleagues in the UK and internationally, including the British Association of Urological Surgeons, the UK health departments, nursing organisations, universities and urology charities.

Developing a standardised curriculum for specialist nurses

BAUN members are also part of a urology nursing project group – along with representatives from the European Association of Urological Nurses and the Australia and New Zealand Urological Nurses Society – which is developing an education framework for urology nursing.

The aim of the framework is to create a structured curriculum for specialist urological nurses and establish accredited training departments, improving the care of urology patients by standardising nursing skills and knowledge.

As well as enhancing nurse development by providing a consistent career pathway, the planned education structure will improve motivation and staff retention by clarifying clinical expectations.

It will also be valuable in succession planning, a great concern to many of us in nursing. In my urology centre, for example, half of the urology nurses are aged over 50. This means that all those years of knowledge and experience will be lost within a few years, leaving a huge gap.

Exploring career potential for urology nurses

The education framework – which addresses issues in the Getting It Right First Time (GIRFT) report – has the potential to demonstrate the value of urology nursing to other healthcare workers, as well as urology nurses themselves.

GIRFT is a programme from NHS Improvement, delivered in partnership with the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital NHS Trust, designed to improve care quality in the NHS in England by eliminating inconsistencies in practice.

The programme runs parallel with initiatives in other parts of the UK, such as Improvement Cymru in Wales, Quality 2020 in Northern Ireland and the work of Healthcare Improvement Scotland.

The BAUN annual conference enhances learning experience and fires up the career potential of urology nurses. The education programme replenishes the store of members’ knowledge, skills and innovation, and enables lively interaction between urology nursing colleagues from across the UK, and others from Europe and further afield.

As the theme of last year’s conference was resilience, there was a heavy focus on prioritising our own health and well-being and not seeing this as a selfish act – something most nurses are not always good at.

We didn’t know it then, but this could not have been better timed, with the COVID-19 pandemic putting nurses and all healthcare staff under pressures never seen before.

BAUN members will not let a pandemic prevent the association from supporting, motivating and educating urology nurses. Although we cannot meet face to face due to current restrictions, this year’s conference, which takes place on 16-17 November, will go ahead virtually.

Courage in the face of adversity

Like everywhere else in the NHS, urology nursing has its challenges. The biggest being what I feel is the dilution of the specialty through urology beds being integrated into general surgical, especially in these unprecedented times of the pandemic.

The theme of this year’s conference is ‘courage in the face of adversity’ – someone must have had a crystal ball when the topic was decided last November.

Courage does not mean facing intimidating obstacles and judgements without trepidation, it means acknowledging them and choosing to move forward anyway.

That is the aim of BAUN in our jubilee year. With our urology nurse colleagues, we will work through and beyond this pandemic to achieve the very best for our patients.


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