Career advice

Passionate about GPN mentorship

After receiving recognition for her role as a mentor, Angela Cheesmond explains why there should be more opportunities to do placements with GPs

After receiving recognition for her role as a mentor, Angela Cheesmond explains why there should be more opportunities to do placements with GPs

Angela Cheesmond didn’t start her training until the age of 39 but already knew that she wanted to be a practice nurse. This passion for her role has seen her rapidly becoming a leading mentor so that she can help more nursing students get a taste of working in primary care.

Ms Cheesmond, who works at the Rossington Practice in Doncaster, received recognition for her outstanding mentorship work as a finalist in mentor of the year in South Yorkshire and Bassetlaw’s regional practice nurse awards. She also received a ‘inspirational mentor award’ from Sheffield Hallam University, after being nominated by a link lecturer. 

Career aspirations

Ms Cheesmond left school at 16 and had a number of jobs while she raised a family. While working as a community phlebotomist, her earlier aspiration to become a nurse was reawakened and she started a three-year nursing course at Sheffield Hallam University in 2011.

'Working as a sign-off mentor, you hear students say 'I want to be a practice nurse', and I want to help them do that'

Although she already had a strong interest in working as a practice nurse, she didn’t have the chance to do a placement in a GP practice on her course. This is not unusual. 

A 2015 survey by the Queen’s Nursing Institute of more than 3,400 practice nurses found that only 27% of practices offered placements to nursing students, compared to almost 62% offering experience to medical students. The same survey found a third of practice nurses will retire by 2020, showing a critical need to boost the ageing workforce with new staff.

Building skills

‘During my final year of training, lots of traditional mentors thought we should spend at least a year in hospital after we qualified, but I am not one for going with the flow,’ Ms Cheesmond says. ‘I knew I wanted to be a practice nurse eventually. I just didn’t know how I was going to get into it.’

She had secured a job in a hospital before she finished her course but she got to know staff at a GP practice through her community placement. When a practice nursing job came up they got in touch to see if she would like to apply.

In February 2014 she became a newly qualified nurse. Her start predated the preceptorship programme that now supports new nurses in primary care, but she attended many training courses to build her skills.

Just over a year later she moved to her current post. Six months after that she took her mentorship training, and last year she followed this with the extra training to become a sign-off mentor, so she can have students for their long final placement.

Passionate about mentoring

Ms Cheesmond is keen to demonstrate how interesting practice nursing is to students, and showcase it as a career that can begin straight from university. Her award nomination said that she had students for at least 38 weeks out of 52. 

'The general practice receives some funding for students and there are benefits for the nurse involved,’ she says. ‘Practice nursing can sometimes be quite a solitary role, but having a student there, who is also an extra pair of hands, can tackle this.’

‘I love having the students because I am passionate about my role and the variety of practice nursing,’ she says. ‘You are not just doing one job and you are seeing an age range from newborn to near death. Particularly working as a sign-off mentor, you hear students say 'I want to be a practice nurse', and I want to help them do that.’

She urges practice nurses to think about becoming mentors. ‘Lack of mentors is a huge worry, particularly sign-off mentors,’ she says. ‘There is a big demand for practice nursing placements.’

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