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Community nurses: new research body will shine a light on their work

International Community Nursing Observatory will explore issues such as safe caseloads
Community nurse with a patient

International Community Nursing Observatory will explore issues such as safe caseloads

The launch of the International Community Nursing Observatory (ICNO) in November is a brilliant opportunity for nursing to articulate what it does and why it is a safety critical profession, according to its newly appointed director.

Alison Leary told the Queens Nursing Institute conference in London that the ICNOs research would help bust the myths surrounding community nurses work.

Using data to shine a light on services

The ICNO will gather and analyse data about community and primary nursing services, and will monitor workforce trends at a regional, national and international level.

Im excited about being able to draw a line around issues like safety and what does a safe caseload look like?, Professor Leary said.

Workforce planners dont understand what work is being done,

International Community Nursing Observatory will explore issues such as safe caseloads


Picture: Neil O’Connor

The launch of the International Community Nursing Observatory (ICNO) in November is a ‘brilliant opportunity’ for nursing to articulate what it does and why it is a ‘safety critical’ profession, according to its newly appointed director.

Alison Leary told the Queen’s Nursing Institute conference in London that the ICNO’s research would help ‘bust the myths’ surrounding community nurses’ work.

Using data to shine a light on services

The ICNO will gather and analyse data about community and primary nursing services, and will monitor workforce trends at a regional, national and international level. 

‘I’m excited about being able to draw a line around issues like safety and “what does a safe caseload look like?”,’ Professor Leary said.

‘Workforce planners don’t understand what work is being done, and increasingly I see nursing represented as a series of tasks.’

Myriad responsibilities of community nurses  


ICNO director Alison Leary.
Picture: Nathan Clarke 

Professor Leary quoted a request she had received, which asked: ‘I want to know how many district nurses we need… it should be easy as they only do four things.’

She added: ‘It beggars belief that these are the assumptions being made. District nurses alleviate suffering, give people a better quality of life, or a good death, or save their lives. They do a lot more than four things.’

The consequences of budget cuts 

Professor Leary said good nursing was ‘only seen when it isn’t there’, and that when budget cuts were being made there was a lack of understanding that ‘poor care costs’.

She argued that community service providers were looking at how many nurses they could afford, rather than how many were needed, and that many newly qualified nurses were being placed on the front line where they had to handle complex issues.

‘We need to mitigate the "rookie factor",’ she said.

‘It’s brilliant that lots of nurses will go into the community on qualifying – but how are we going to support them? If we don’t, they will leave.’


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