Award-winning district nurse development programme raises morale

Why giving patients the best care service comes from the heart of nursing. 

‘If the team around you is happy, and if you are happy leading your team, you will naturally deliver a better service,’ says district nurse team leader and practice teacher Bethan Garner.

 Nurses Tracy Harman, Ruth McCarthy and Kim Geraghty
Nurses Ruth McCarthy, Kim Geraghty and Tracy Harman
Picture: Nathan Clarke

‘Our clinical standards have always been very high, but training really improved our leadership skills and helped us build such strong relationships with our teams and other stakeholders. Training and support will help us provide the best care for patients.’

Bethan has completed a leadership training programme created and delivered by a team in Virgin Care’s adult community nursing service in Surrey.

Leadership awards

The District Nurse Development Programme was devised by district nurse and practice teacher Tracy Harman, with Ruth McCarthy and Kim Geraghty supporting its delivery.

In May the team won the NHS England-sponsored leadership category of the RCNi Nurse Awards. The judges thought the programme had national and international potential and praised the team’s energy and commitment.

Tracy says: ‘Our vision was to create a 21st century community nursing service that serves its patients by providing the best possible care, and is highly respected by patients, carers and professional partners. But we had to give our nurses the skills and knowledge to do the job.

‘District nurses are spread out and work autonomously. There is a huge amount of complex care but our nurses have to grow on their own. I wanted to bridge the theory to practice gap. Morale had gone, even though they were doing a fantastic job – and I wanted to help them do it better.’

Modules for development

A brain storming session with Kim drew recurrent themes around professional development that later became module headings – visions, values, roles and responsibilities, leadership behaviours and managing people, driving improvement and handling challenges.

They were linked into the NMC Code. ‘We were not doing this in isolation,’ says Tracy.

Four modules were delivered to four cohorts in four months at a cost of £100 per head. All practice teachers, district nurses and senior community nurses at Band 6 or 7 took part and on completion received a certificate for revalidation.

Modules were evaluated on the day and feedback used to improve them for the next cohort. Overall, the programme was scored 8.4-9.2 out of 10 from participants. 100 per cent said after the programme they were very confident in managing their teams.

‘The feedback told us not just how enjoyable the district nurses found the sessions but also how their learning has contributed to delivering a high quality, responsive service, says Tracy.

Reflection with colleagues

Bethan valued the opportunity to discuss challenges and to work with peers to find solutions. She adds that senior nurses are even more aware they are role models.

‘By having the opportunity to take time out of our daily practice to work with and to reflect with colleagues I feel we can now lead our teams effectively.

‘The part of the programme that included customer service training has directly improved how we interact with patients. All of this will help us improve the care we provide to patients and carers.’

Applications for the 2017 RCNi Nurse Awards will open on 12 October 2016.

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