I am currently on the two-year GPN Fellowship, and I wanted to write a blog of my experiences of going into primary care as a newly qualified nurse and my journey so far.
I started my Nurse Degree Apprenticeship in 2018 as a mature student who is a wife and mother to two autistic children. I thought throughout my time studying for my degree that I would eventually end up working in the hospital, either as a scrub nurse or intensive care nurse.
When the dreaded Covid hit I was at a real low and was close to giving up my studies, but I saw that people were needed in the mass vaccination centre and as a roving team in the community. This reminded me how much I loved caring for people, health promotion and community working. I knew then that I did not want to be in a secondary care environment, but as a newly qualified nurse I thought that was still what was expected.
I had a job secured as a NQN in general intensive care but saw that a practice nurse was needed at the surgery where I used to work as a healthcare assistant before I started my apprenticeship. I thought I had no chance as I would be coming into primary care with no prior experience of nursing and was led to believe that you needed at least six months experience in hospital before going into a community setting. When I got the email to say I’d got the job, I was gobsmacked, but I knew instantly that this was the right career path for me. Nurses I spoke to in the hospital could not understand why I was going into primary care and warned me of ‘de-skilling’; well, there’s been no chance of that!
I have been working as a practice nurse for the past seven months and the time has flown by. I am loving working as an autonomous practitioner but being fully supported in practice at the same time. General practice nursing is so varied, covering all ages from birth onwards. My role consists of many different skills from wound care with compression, patient education and health promotion to adult and childhood immunisations. I have learnt so much since the beginning of my journey in nursing.
I started the GPN fellowship in February this year and this includes the GPN Foundation course. This has been invaluable to me as a newly qualified nurse going into primary care, assisting me in gaining the knowledge I need, and providing an evidence base to work from. The foundation course covers different subjects such as contraception, immunisations, and cervical cytology to name but a few. I am completing a portfolio of my clinical competencies whilst on this course, which is enhancing my clinical skills and practice.
Through the fellowship I have had the support of the QNI with a group clinical supervision once a month where we discuss a different topic each month. I also meet with the QNI’s Angie Hack once a month on a one-to-one basis and it’s this that I appreciate more than anything! I completed the self-assessment tool SWOT analysis, and we went through it together which helped me see my strengths and weaknesses and how I want to progress in my career. Our meetings have been invaluable to my practice but also to my wellbeing, as she helped me when I had a ‘wobble’.
My journey in practice nursing doesn’t end there. In September I will be doing another module in the management of Long-Term Conditions covering diabetes, asthma, and COPD and in doing this I will have gained a Post Graduate Certificate in Primary Care. I know I want to be the best practice nurse I can possibly be and I am seriously considering enrolling on the Specialist Practice Course in General Practice Nursing in the future and – who knows – maybe a Queen’s Nurse one day (as suggested by Angie!)
I feel so appreciative to have been so well supported both in practice and through the fellowship. The thoughts of some that general practice somehow de-skills you is both old fashioned and untrue. The view of some is that GPNs are nearing the end of their careers and slowing down. It’s the complete opposite if my experience is anything to go by! Practice nursing is constantly evolving and expanding, with so many different roles and specialities.
My hope is that another newly qualified nurse may read this and see how exciting and innovative general practice is and consider following the same route – you won’t regret it!
Red and Green practice, Waterside PCN