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Day in the Life of a Consultant Nurse

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Name: Paul Cornforth
Role: Consultant Nurse
Location: South-west London
Band: 8b
Previous job: Nurse practitioner, Brighton

One of the reasons that I really enjoy my job is that no two days (or even at times parts of the same day) are the same. This can sometimes lead to mental meltdown, and the ability to think about what you are doing, reflect on what you have just done and start preparing for what you are moving on to next. It also makes you grateful for the train journey to and from work, as this is time for unwinding.

I generally prefer to get to work early – especially at this time of the year when the weather is hot. Also the trains tend to be quieter and if you get in early you can leave early. Getting in early also gives you the chance to get things done, before other people get to work and start bothering you by email and telephone.

Fifty per cent of my work is seeing patients hands-on. The clinical areas I work in vary from an NHS Walk-in Centre, general practice, to a residential and nursing home or the health centre at a prison. Therefore the times I have to get to work and the routine once I am at work can vary hugely, and it can be confusing at times but you quickly manage to develop an ability to change your mindset for the day as you arrive for work.

I also like the variety within my clinical work – I could be seeing someone for something like emergency contraception or a cough and then the next patient might be an unwell asthmatic or someone who is having a stroke – it can be that varied and unpredictable. You are making clinical decisions on the run, and you are processing complex patient and clinical information to make a safe and effective decision. Nothing is ever ‘routine’ because there is always a chance that the patient who ‘only has a cough’ could have TB or it could be as a result of gastric reflux and not just a common cold or viral infection.

Within the NHS Walk-in Centre, I also act as the ‘expert’ practitioner (I am still not quite sure what this is, even after three years) for junior members of staff who require support and second opinions for complex patients, and also when there is a need to prescribe for patients who do not meet the criteria of the patient group directives.

I also spend a quarter of my time undertaking teaching and education. For this part of my role I am a senior lecturer with a university faculty of health, where amongst other things I module lead a CPD module for post-registration nurses and paramedics, as well as teaching on physical assessment, decision-making, pharmacology and nurse prescribing modules. This is interesting work as it is a totally different contrast to my clinical work, and often I have been asked what it is like to stand up in front of a group of sixty students and lecture for three hours. To be honest, it’s a bit like being a stand-up comic needing to keep his audience entertained – the only difference is I do it without a glass of alcohol in my hand!

It is also nice to be able to provide students with a good standard of education. When I started teaching, I could remember back to all of the lectures I had as a pre-registration student, where the lecturer hadn’t been near a patient since the days of Florence! I like the point in a lecture when you are talking and you suddenly start to see those metaphorical light bulbs flashing over student’s heads. I find teaching incredibly tiring – it feels like it is very high intensity, and by the end of the session you are exhausted with a sore throat!

Within the staff support and education part of my role, as well as academic teaching, I also offer support to students undertaking specialist practice programmes at BSc and MSc level for Nurse Practitioner. I enjoy this aspect of my role because it allows you to help staff with their development, and it is hugely satisfying to watch their development and growth. This support varies from hands-on clinical teaching to academic support and development, dissertation supervision and clinical observation.

Whilst generally I like my job largely because of the ability to influence standards of practice and the variety of both clinical and academic work, obviously there are parts of my job which I would change if I could – firstly I would get rid of meetings, and the meetings about meetings which have happened or might be happening. I would also get rid of targets – fine if they are there to enhance patient care, but when they dictate patient care they should be gotten rid of.

One thing is for certain – as a Consultant Nurse, you have not got the opportunity to become bored because you are never doing one thing in one place for long enough to allow the boredom to develop.

Paul Cornforth
RN (Adult), PG Dip (Nurse Practitioner), PGCE (Learning and Teaching in Higher Education), BA (Hons) Nursing, Nurse Independent Prescriber
Consultant Nurse – Unscheduled Care / Senior Lecturer (Autonomous Practice)
SW London

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