How to set up a nurse-led clinic

Detailed planning and communication with team members are vital to creating a successful service

Detailed planning and communication with team members are vital to creating a successful service.

Abstract

Nurse-led clinics are a vital part of UK health care. They are diverse and are therefore hard to define, but they involve nurses having their own patient caseload and increased autonomy, often using advanced clinical skills such as physical assessment, diagnosis and medicines management.

Clinic numbers grew enormously in the late 1990s due to a variety of converging factors. Not least was the recognition by the government that patients could receive effective care from other healthcare professionals in areas where they would traditionally be seen by medical staff. The population has also been ageing and living with chronic conditions that required monitoring and management.

Evidence has tended to focus on the substitution of nurse-led care for doctor-led care. Research needs to be evaluated individually, but appropriately trained nurses can achieve health outcomes for patients that are equivalent to those of medical staff.

Patients are happy to be cared for by nurses. Role substitution should not be the only measure of nurse-led clinic success and the benefits of nursing care should not be overlooked.

Setting up and running a nurse-led clinic offers the opportunity to develop a variety of transferable skills. As well as developing more advanced skills – clinical assessment, history taking and medicines management – the ability to manage time and patient caseloads remains a valued skill in a highly-pressured health service. The term ‘nurse-led clinic’ does misleadingly suggest working in isolation, yet good communication skills are developed to a high level by working within the multidisciplinary team, reviewing care together and making referrals.

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This article was first published in print in Nursing Standard: volume 30, issue 37

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