Resource aims to ease the transition from secondary to primary care
Moving from hospital to the community has been made simpler thanks to the Queen's Nursing Institute
Moving from secondary to primary care nursing may feel like a daunting prospect, but a new resource from the Queen’s Nursing Institute (QNI) could help to make the transition smoother.
‘Nursing in the community can be very different to a hospital,’ says QNI director of programmes Anne Pearson. ‘You’re on your own much more, so you need to be confident about your decision-making skills.’
Transition to General Practice Nursing is a free online learning resource designed to support nurses who are new to the specialism. The comprehensive guide includes chapters on working safely, teamwork and developing your career.
‘It’s a good introduction to the role,’ says Ms Pearson.
‘It’s also a security blanket for those starting off as a general practice nurse. We hope that nurses new to the role will turn to it when they feel unsure, with relevant chapters reinforcing what they already know.’
Based on the knowledge and expertise of those working in the field, a core group of general practice nurses have contributed to every chapter. In common with its predecessors on district and school nursing, the resource uses real-life scenarios to encourage nurses to think about what they might do in similar situations.
There is also a chapter on reflection, which Ms Pearson regards as vital for practice nurses. ‘When you have a waiting room full of people to see, you may feel rushed. But you need to take time to think, reflect and learn from the experience and whether you could have done something differently.’
Managing professional isolation is among the key challenges for newcomers, says Ms Pearson. ‘You may be the only nurse working in your particular practice and that can be challenging, especially if you’re more used to working in a large multidisciplinary team.’
The depth and breadth of knowledge that is needed in primary care can be another pressure. Work may include child and travel immunisations, sexual health and management of long-term health conditions.
Although she only qualified in September, Louise Goodyear, pictured, has taken the somewhat unusual step of joining a GP surgery as a junior practice nurse.
‘It’s almost unheard of for someone who is newly qualified to go straight into general practice nursing,’ Ms Goodyear admits. ‘But this is what needs to happen if we’re going to change things and move forward. Some people argue that you should have experience in secondary care first, but I don’t agree. We need to dispel the myth that practice nursing is an easier option or that it’s only for more experienced nurses.’
Employed on a fixed term contract, she spends one day studying on a course in fundamentals of general practice nursing at Birmingham City University, commissioned by Health Education England West Midlands. She spends two days working at the practice in Burton-on-Trent, Staffordshire.
She chose practice nursing after doing a third-year placement. ‘There should be more practice nursing placements offered to nursing students and it needs to be spoken about more as a viable career option,’ says Ms Goodyear.
Among the attractions is being able to work with patients on a one-to-one basis. ‘In a hospital setting it’s sometimes difficult to achieve that,’ she says. ‘It’s different working here, compared to being here as a student. But it’s a fantastic career and you learn so much. Every day is different. And I have a good support network.’
This includes her mentor, practice nurse manager Gill Boast, who is professional lead for practice nursing for East Staffordshire clinical commissioning group. ‘It’s the first time the practice has done this,’ Ms Boast says. ‘There’s a realisation that many practice nurses are retiring and we need to attract new nurses to join us. It’s about looking forward and future planning.’
But Ms Pearson believes the role is rewarding. ‘It offers many nurses greater flexibility, with slightly less unsocial hours than much hospital nursing, but that doesn’t mean it’s a second rate career choice,’ she says.
‘You can get to know whole families and also your community. Practice nurses are a dynamic group. General practices wouldn’t survive without them. The role is crucial in supporting people to remain well and stay out of hospital.’
More pre-registration placements would help guarantee a healthy future for the role, she believes. ‘If nursing students have a good experience somewhere, often that’s the area of nursing they choose when they qualify. So let’s make sure that they have excellent community placements,’ says Ms Pearson.