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Realising potential in practice nursing

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Practice nurses are often 'invisible' Practice nurses are often 'invisible'

I was privileged to attend a nursing awards ceremony recently. I was honoured to be in the company of nurses who were being recognised for the extraordinary work they do.

All of the shortlisted nurses had used innovative approaches to make a difference to their patients’ lives in a variety of settings. They care for patients, families and carers at all stages of their lives. It signified for me the enormous contribution and potential of our nursing workforce in the UK to impact on the health of our citizens.

I was particularly delighted that the overall winner was a nurse from general practice. Nurses working in general practice are often invisible in the work that they do – and yet every person registered with a GP in the UK will have access to the skills of the general practice nurse working in the primary care team.

The QNI’s report on general practice nursing showed the breadth of skills of the nurse and the many positive ways in which they touch people’s lives with their work.

The potential of nurses working in general practice has yet to be fully recognised in a consistent way. My GP colleagues regularly tell me that they would like more highly skilled nurses, not more GPs, in their surgeries.

We can respond to this if we increase the exposure of student nurses to primary care and create the opportunities for the funded development of general practice nurses. The QNI report on good practice in supporting excellent placements for student nurses in primary care, commissioned by Health Education England, is awaiting publication. This will share the barriers and the enablers of student nurse placements in primary care and provide examples of excellent outcomes.

The QNI and QNI Scotland work on general practice nurse voluntary standards for education and practice, will support all universities offering the specialist practice award, with a UK consensus on the role of the specialist practitioner and the expectations of the skills required to lead and manage a team of nurses in primary care. It is expected to be released in 2017.

These standards will add to the QNI/QNIS voluntary standards for district nurse education and practice which have been widely adopted. This work demonstrates and confirms the credibility of the partnership in acting as a recognised authority in setting standards for our profession. In 2017 we will focus on a similar development for community children’s nursing.

Crystal Oldman, chief executive, Queen’s Nursing Institute

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