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Mapping out nursing roles

A number of specialist nursing positions have emerged across the NHS. How can we raise awareness of these roles with patients and the public in general?

A number of specialist nursing positions have emerged across the NHS. How can we raise awareness of these roles with patients and the public in general?


Picture: Tim George

As the NHS celebrates 70 years, it is hard to imagine what life was like before it started. As I am a little way off 70, I have no memory of anything different. 

I joined halfway through and since then, there have been many changes to the roles, responsibilities and titles of nurses. I was reflecting with a colleague recently about how chemotherapy services have evolved. Nurses and their leadership qualities have been instrumental to these changes. 

And despite this, not all people affected by cancer, or indeed fellow nurses, are aware of the roles and titles that have, and continue to emerge across the NHS. 

Broaden understanding

Perhaps, when patients get appointments to hospital or primary care they should receive a guide to the different roles of nurses in the organisation they are likely to meet. 

This would have a twofold effect; firstly, to clarify who the patient will meet and, secondly, to broaden the understanding of what a nurse does across society. 

I don’t wish to come across all political, but how often does a politician describe what a nurse should and shouldn’t do? In my view, this reflects an outdated view of nursing, or a lack of understanding of the level of responsibility many nurses have in organisations, particularly within cancer care. 

Patient-centred

Clinical nurse specialists developed first in cancer services, as did the consultant nurse role. Why do I feel these positions are being eroded in favour of new roles such as the advanced nurse practitioner? 

While the NHS is constantly evolving, we need to ensure the patient is central to these decisions. 

Last time I looked, the satisfaction, and improvements in clinical outcomes, could be directly linked to the involvement of a clinical nurse specialist. Let us give them our full support.   


About the author

Susanne Cruickshank is chair of the RCN cancer and breast care forum

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