Why general practice nurses are so special and unique

The knowledge and skill sets of general practice nurses can often be undervalued, but the role covers so much in primary care and offers many opportunities

Illustration shows a general practice nurse with a loudhailer standing on top of a signpost showing four directions to take
Picture: iStock

Many general practice nurses (GPNs) feel there is no sense of reprieve on the horizon right now – a decline in GPN numbers and an erosion of the role and its value through the roll-out of the additional roles reimbursement scheme (ARRS), which now includes nursing associates – are the main drivers behind this. There is also a feeling that there is no support for negotiating terms and conditions.

All of this has chipped away at GPNs’ sense of pride and purpose.

Rekindle your pride in the general practice nurse role

In my role, I try to promote GPN positivity and confidence. GPNs are unique as a workforce – we are managed and employed by doctors, and that does not happen anywhere else in the NHS. This can lead to a perceived power imbalance, but we are professionals in our own right and should command respect.

We deliver so much in primary care: a one-stop shop delivering the care that people require – or outsourcing it when necessary. We have in-depth knowledge of long-term conditions, and we have the ability to teach pre- and post-registration students.

Change is here for all of us. General practitioners are having to get used to working in a way they have never had to before to tackle population health. Those employed on ARRS roles are often isolated and feel less like part of a team and more autonomous than they may like, whereas autonomy is something GPNs have always excelled at.

Ways to capitalise on your skill set

What can we do to remedy this? Think about your skill set, speak to your clinical director and ask what the nursing team can deliver for long-term conditions. If that does not suit you, get involved in education, become a local education leader and train an nurse associate or ensure a supply of future GPNs by encouraging nursing students.

Or why not take the plunge and train as an advanced clinical practitioner? There is more than enough work for all of us, so do not lose heart. Work autonomously, but also band together to be part of something bigger. Hold your heads up high and realise how unique and special GPNs all are.

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