Probably the greatest benefit to patients that nurses provide is their holistic focus. Other health professionals deal with specific aspects of patients’ needs, but nurses see the whole patient, and consider that patient’s needs from every angle. In fact, it’s the ability to provide holistic care that attracts many people to join the profession.
But is holistic care possible in general practice? At the Queen’s Nursing Institute annual conference earlier this month the NHS Confederation chief executive praised the holistic nature of the care provided by community and primary care nurses, noting that patients often present with one issue but find there are others that also need to be addressed.
However, a delegate pointed out that many practice nurses work in practices with “one patient, one problem” rules, and that these applied to the nurses as well as the GPs.
Like most nurses, practice nurses see many patients who have multiple conditions, and run clinics addressing specific long-term conditions. If a patient with a debilitating long-term condition has struggled to get to the clinic for a check-up, surely it makes sense to address any apparently unrelated health issues at the same time?
As a holistic profession nurses recognise that when patients have multiple health problems those problems don’t exist in isolation. Ignoring the “irrelevant” problem simply makes it more likely that the condition the patient is attending the clinic for will also deteriorate.
Practice nurses are not simply alternatives to doctors. They practise in a different way, and must be allowed to address the problems patients bring to them - even if they don’t fit neatly into a box defined by the practice.