It’s just not true that your first job must be in an acute hospital – and here’s why
QNI's Crystal Oldman on why the community is the perfect place to start your nursing career
Crystal Oldman on why the community is the perfect place to start your nursing career
Nursing students are often told they should apply for a hospital-based position on qualifying before moving to the community later in their career.
This is a myth. The fact is that a newly qualiﬁed nurse can work as a staff nurse in the community or primary care as a ﬁrst-destination job. There is an exciting and enjoyable career to be had in this ﬁeld as soon as you graduate.
Working in community and primary care offers nurses diverse interactions with people in the environment where they actually live. This is one of the things nurses speak about so passionately when they describe what makes community nursing so rewarding – and indeed it is where most healthcare actually takes place.
A chance to make long-term connections
It’s also the place where you have the chance to make long-term relationships with the people and the communities you serve: providing nurse-led interventions and supported self-care, motivating people to live healthier lives and manage their health conditions, and promoting health to people of all ages and social backgrounds.
‘In the community, you have the opportunity to learn more about the person’s life… You are a key professional in their care, working much more independently than in a hospital’
In a hospital, you may see a patient who is admitted repeatedly. The hospital will stabilise their condition and transfer their care to community services, at home or in some cases to temporary accommodation or a supported facility.
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As a nurse in the community, you have the opportunity to learn more about this person’s life and the underlying causes of their health challenges. You are a key professional in their ongoing care, working much more independently than in a hospital, and progressive employers offer more opportunities for innovation and developing new models of care.
Scope for career progression
Nurses in the community work with people, their families and carers to help them manage their health more sustainably, for example by helping them quit smoking, cut down on alcohol or exercise more.
Often these interventions are at least as important as the drug regimen they are on – though community nurses are key practitioners here too.
Many nurses working in community and primary care are independent prescribers and can use a growing formulary. Increasingly, advanced nurse practitioners carry out the kind of work that was once exclusively a GP’s job. So, the community and primary care also offer great opportunities for career progression.
Crystal Oldman is chief executive of the Queen’s Nursing Institute