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Why it is vital to raise the profile of emergency nurse practitioners

ENPs need a clear voice and a forum that will enable them to create a professional profile
 Picture shows a nurse with a patient in a hospital emergency department. ENPs need a clear voice and a forum that will enable them to create a professional profile, says Chrissy White.

Emergency nurse practitioners (ENPs) need a clear voice and a forum that will enable them to create a professional profile, says a lead ENP

As emergency nurse practitioners (ENPs) we are a senior resource with a wealth of emergency nursing experience. We are often the linchpin of service provision, working autonomously to provide excellent patient care.

The minors patient cohort of any emergency department (ED) is easily the largest, yet patients are seen here by what is often the smallest workforce. In an urgent care centre or walk-in centre all patients are usually seen and treated by a nurse-led workforce.

So why is it that we underplay our hand and dont seem to understand that we are a hugely important and valuable staff group within urgent and emergency care?

ENPs need a network for shared learning, best practice,

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Emergency nurse practitioners (ENPs) need a clear voice and a forum that will enable them to create a professional profile, says a lead ENP

 Picture shows a nurse with a patient in a hospital emergency department. ENPs need a clear voice and a forum that will enable them to create a professional profile, says Chrissy White.
Picture: John Houlihan

As emergency nurse practitioners (ENPs) we are a senior resource with a wealth of emergency nursing experience. We are often the linchpin of service provision, working autonomously to provide excellent patient care.

The minors patient cohort of any emergency department (ED) is easily the largest, yet patients are seen here by what is often the smallest workforce. In an urgent care centre or walk-in centre all patients are usually seen and treated by a nurse-led workforce.

So why is it that we underplay our hand and don’t seem to understand that we are a hugely important and valuable staff group within urgent and emergency care?

‘ ENPs need a network for shared learning, best practice, research and communication’

My nursing team recently hosted an ENP conference because I couldn’t find one for them to attend that wasn’t either in the US or an add-on of a doctors’ conference that ENPs could attend.

Our conference received expressions of interest from all over the UK via social media, and it quickly became apparent that there is a need for a support network among ENPs for shared learning, best practice, research and communication.

It seems we all face similar problems and issues, yet we work away in our respective units, unaware of what other ENPs are doing.

No national standard for training, competencies or even job description

The conference also highlighted the spectrum of training that ENPs receive and underlined that, three decades from our inception, we have no national standard for training, competencies or even job description.

Nurses have one. Advanced clinical practitioners (ACPs) have one. Why not us? We should be setting ourselves a standard to aspire to, be measured by and then develop.

My team is working on setting up a forum for ENPs and we are planning our next conference, hopefully for later in 2020, to build on the networking that we started at the end of 2019. We are hoping this will become an annual event that rotates around ENP services, with open access for all ENPs.

‘A forum could move towards credentialling and create a national set of competencies’

As senior nurses we need a support network and, more importantly, a voice. The idea of a space where we can promote learning, share experience and publicise research received overwhelming support at our event, and we are working hard to get it off the ground.

The slogan for our conference was Raising the Profile of ENPs, and that is what we are aiming to do. From our forum we could move towards credentialling for ENPs, create a national set of competencies, like those set by the Royal College of Emergency Medicine for ACPs.

The RCN programme for advanced level nurse practitioner is not specific to ENPs, and requires, or builds towards, a master’s degree. Neither is the Emergency Care Association’s national curriculum and competency for framework emergency nurses.

A pathway from trainee emergency nurse pracitioner to credentialled advanced clinical practitioner?

Many of the ENPs who attended our event were vastly experienced and wanted something to evidence this, but they don’t have funding or non-clinical time to start an MSc. A programme made up of smaller parts – individual credentialled competencies – that ENPs could work towards while in their clinical settings would have huge buy-in.

This portfolio of credentialled competencies could be built on to establish a national definition of an ENP and could be credited towards the ACP plan for those who want to further their scope of practice, without penalising established ENPs who prefer their existing role.

We could create a pathway from trainee ENP to credentialled ACP, and if ENPs have a clear voice, and a forum to express it in, we could create a professional profile to be the model for future development. If we can aim high and achieve this we will indeed have raised our profile.


Picture of Chrissy White, lead emergency nurse practitioner in the emergency department at University College Hospital in London, who argues that ENPs need a clear voice and a forum that will enable them to create a professional profile.Chrissy White is lead emergency nurse practitioner in the emergency department at University College Hospital in London

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