Nursing in general practice has developed enormously over the last three decades. When I first started working more than 30 years ago, there were few nurses working in general practice.
Today it is rare to find a practice without a nurse as part of the team. We now seek to understand the patient’s needs and match those to the most appropriately skilled clinician. Having come so far in establishing nursing in primary care in a relatively short space of time, we need to keep up the momentum to attract more nurses to work in general practice.
This can be done through securing more placements for student nurses and supporting their learning with a high- quality learning environment and motivated mentors.
We also need nurse tutors in universities to make general practice nursing a part of their everyday narrative. With their backing, it can become a mainstream placement and ‘normalised’ as a first destination on qualifying.
The QNI recently received by Health Education England (HEE) to undertake a project to explore the barriers and enablers affecting students undertaking placements in primary care and community settings. Areas of excellent practice were examined and the findings will be published by HEE in the autumn, along with the recommendations for practice.
The outcomes will align well with the work of NHS England, where the current concern with attracting more doctors into general practice is now coupled with the challenge of attracting new members of the wider team, including nurses.
One group well suited to a career in general practice are those nurses considering returning to work after a break for maternity or other caring responsibilities. Still holding a valid nurse registration, they may be seeking a flexible role in their local community with ‘family friendly’ hours. They may know little about the opportunity that general practice offers but can find out more with the online learning resource developed and launched by the QNI this year.
The QNI is also working with the Royal College of General Practitioners to explore a robust model of learning for those returning to the nursing workforce after a period of leave. Joining forces with our GP colleagues is a role model for teams working in general practice and I look forward to a positive outcome for patients, carers and families.
Crystal Oldman, chief executive, Queen’s Nursing Institute