The University of Hertfordshire has set up a project with the primary aim of exploring newcommunity placement opportunities for pre-registration student nurses undertaking the BSc (Hons) Nursing programme. One strand of this project has been engagement with GP practices to develop student nurses' understanding of the practice nurse (PN) role and the potential of a career in general practice. Working collaboratively with local CCGs, senior practice nurses and a pilot community education network provider (CEPN) in Barnet, the project team has been promoting student nurse placements and is establishing a network of practice nurse mentors.
Traditionally, within the pre-registration programme, PN placements have occasionally been used for student nurse learning opportunities. A number of second-year student nurses studying at the University of Hertfordshire were placed with GP practices as part of their elective experience over the summer of 2014. Students had the opportunity to work with all team members in a practice, developing key assessment skills. They worked closely with the service users, giving them a different insight into nurse-patient interaction and relationship.
Feedback from the students about these experiences has been very positive. The students presented at a recent symposium at the University of Hertfordshire. They reflected on how they developed understanding of skills required in clinically assessing service users of all ages.
Examples cited by the students included triaging, minor illness assessment and treatment, nurse prescribing, routine screening, health promotion advice and lifestyle choices in this multiprofessional environment.
The range of skills that a student nurse can develop in general practice has not been widely acknowledged. One of the project's aims was to raise awareness of the value of general practice as a clinical learning environment.
Practice nursing mentors and the wider team, such as GPs, receptionists, practice managers and healthcare workers, appear to be an unrecognised resource.
We believe that this project has met its primary aim of educating student nurses about the opportunities which exist in GP practices following qualification. A key factor for sustaining the project as it moves forward will be the engagement of key stakeholders, and strong collaborative working relationships between the clinical, professional and academic sectors that have been developed during the first phase of this project. The team thanks local practice nurses and GPs for their advice, support and encouragement during the pilot.