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'We have set up forums to allow nurses to network and make their voices heard'

As a nurse practitioner in urgent care, Nicola Groom uses both clinical and managerial skills

Having complete autonomy went from being daunting to a joy for Nicola Groom, nurse practitioner and acting lead nurse at Virgin Care’s Reading Walk-in Health Centre.

“The freedom to make my own clinical decisions and develop patients’ health really appealed,” says the nurse, who started in a high-dependency unit before moving to accident and emergency.

“My exposure in A&E was invaluable. If you can handle A&E, you can pretty much handle anything. The walk-in centre offers a different perspective on urgent care.”

Ms Groom had worked in Portsmouth’s minor injuries and urgent care centre as a nurse practitioner, before joining Virgin Care nearly two years ago.

“I felt apprehensive about the wider scope and increased level of accountability but this is now an enjoyable aspect of the work for me,” she says. Ms Groom is dedicated to her personal and professional development – and is now accustomed to the level of responsibility she faces daily.

While working at Portsmouth, she started a master’s degree in advanced clinical practice and took a second job in an ambulance control room to pay for it.

“I had to work out if one caller needed an ambulance more urgently than another. As the only clinician in that room, I was responsible for assessing the clinical need of each caller. It taught me a lot and helped me to develop my triage skills, which are invaluable in our busy walk-in centre.”

Ms Groom started her work at Reading Walk-in Health Centre in 2010 where, as acting lead nurse, she has developed in a more managerial role. She has also been seconded to Hampshire Healthcare Centre (Basingstoke).

“I have one complete management day per week, and the rest of my time is spent in a leadership role, but actively seeing patients to maintain my clinical skills,” she says.

“Hands-on patient care is important to me and I am confident that this aspect of my work gives credibility to me as a manager.”

The Virgin Carel practices and walk-in centres in Reading and Basingstoke are open 8am-8pm, 365 days a year. Staffed by 18 nurses, two healthcare assistants and nine GPs, it closes when the last 8pm check-in has been seen.

Autonomy and the skill set to deal with a wide variety of conditions is essential, with Reading and Basingstoke serving local and commuter populations.

“We see everything, including suspected heart attack patients, people with breast and testicular lumps, moles, surgical problems, acute abdominal pain, urine infections, plus the usual coughs, colds and minor illness and injuries,” she says.

Ms Groom lectures on minor injuries at the University of Surrey and is a member of the executive team at South Reading Consortium, representing other nurse practitioners and practice nurses in the area.

“At times practice nurses can feel disengaged and lack confidence so we have set up local forums to allow local nurses to network and make their voices heard,” she says.

Happy in her roles, Ms Groom says: “I’ve had a lot of financial but, more importantly, professional support from Virgin Care to achieve my nurse prescribing course and other CPD qualifications. Keeping staff happy, I believe, is the best way to keep patients happy and healthy.”


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