I started working in a GP practice as a receptionist almost six years ago. Having worked in clinical environments previously as a pharmacy dispenser, I started feeling like I missed the patient contact and approached my manager to see if there was any way I could do something like a phlebotomy course, just to have a bit of patient contact again.
My manager thought I had potential and put me forward to complete the care certificate to become a Healthcare Assistant. I loved being able to be hands-on with patients again and my management team was really on board with putting me through the training, firstly to become a nursing associate and eventually, after 3 ½ years, a Registered Nurse. This was partly because they could see my potential, and partly to see if they were able to support an apprentice through the process as it hadn’t really been done before in primary care.
Having the support of the management team is so important; not only are they investing in you as a person, they are also there to support you throughout the training process. With the support of management and funding from Health Education England, I was able to complete my training, including a whole year of placement outside work, as well as small placements throughout the courses. The placements, which ranged from hospital settings to community and hospice really help to give you a well-rounded view of what types of nursing are available. You also see the different services offered in the NHS and how they support each other in patient management.
But working in primary care is an experience like no other! The types of patients and scenarios that you come across, the diversity, is unlike any other healthcare environment. In primary care we look after patients from cradle to grave and everywhere in between; our role is so important in preventing patients from reaching the point where they have to be admitted to secondary care, and generally keeping them as fit and well as possible. I love that every day and every clinic is different, and having gone from receptionist all the way through to registered nurse has given me a great set of skills that I wouldn’t get anywhere else.
General practice nursing (GPN) really is the way forward in patient care: we cover everything from diabetes, respiratory, sexual health, wound care, vaccinations, immunisations to dementia and end of life care. As part of the training to become a nurse you need to have additional support in your first year post-qualification; in primary care this is provided by the General Practice Nurse fellowship.
GPN training is available for all nurses new to General Practice Nursing. The GPN fellowship includes a GPN Foundations course – this not only provided me with the practical skills I needed for clinics (cervical screening, baby immunisations and wound care amongst many others) it also improved my confidence and public speaking tenfold! Throughout the two years you receive individual and group support and professional and career guidance led by the Queen’s Nursing Institute (in Wessex and Dorset). This helps you through further training to step up from Adult Nurse to General Practice Nurse.
I feel so supported in my role and am constantly pushed to improve and expand my skills by my mentor in surgery and through the fellowship. So many avenues of progression open up in general practice through taking the foundation in primary care course and the fellowship itself. I am already booked on to complete my Post Graduate Certificate within two years of qualifying!
The role is constantly expanding and developing, and you can mould it to whatever interest you have – for me I have been able to focus on dementia and learning disability patient care, as well as the practice nurse general role. I also carry out home visits once a week to our more vulnerable patients. As well as my role within surgery, I also attend panels in secondary schools to speak about the different routes into further education that are available to their students and what being a nurse in primary care is like.
I love my job and couldn’t imagine being anywhere else!
Portsdown Group Practice