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'Recognise the value of all roles in nursing'


Our story about the “frightening” shortage of practice nurses on page 7 raises huge concerns for the profession and the health of the nation.
Nurse prescribing and nurse-led clinics have done much to elevate nurses’ influence and responsibilities - both within primary care and the acute sector.

Without their input, primary care would not operate as effectively: patients would wait longer to be seen, their conditions could worsen, putting their safety at risk and it could cost the NHS more to treat them.

But of course, practice nurses don’t just take care of patients with long-term conditions, such as asthma and diabetes, they also offer advice on health issues such as weight, smoking, sexual health and vaccinations. Starve the health service of practice nurses and you are storing up public health issues and therefore cost for the future. The government has worked hard to increase health visitor numbers by 4,200 by 2015. But a lack of practice nurses to take care of children aged over 5 years old could see much of the early intervention work of the health visiting profession lie fallow.

The profession is hugely diverse but if you tell someone you’re a nurse, how often do they conjure up an image of you walking a ward, tending to sick adults or children?

So what is putting younger practitioners off becoming practice nurses? Is it because nurses featured in the media, for example in dramas, usually work in hospital? Do nurses somehow get the impression they are “less” if they don’t work in acute settings? Or perhaps they think practice nurses are isolated from their peers?

The profession is hugely diverse but if you tell someone you’re a nurse, how often do they conjure up an image of you walking a ward, tending to sick adults or children?

It’s not something that other health professions run into. If someone tells you they’re a doctor, you probably immediately ask which kind. You don’t assume they are a GP or consultant.

A nurse once told me she “wasn’t a real nurse” because she wasn’t working on a ward, caring for sick people but was now a manager.

If nurses don’t acknowledge the contribution they make in whatever role they have, how can we hope to attract people to all areas of the profession? Everyone must see themselves as a “real nurse”.

● Congratulations to our very own online editor Nadine Woogara, who won “Editor of the Year - digital business titles” at the British Society of Magazine Editors Awards earlier this month for her work on and This week, she is running a Study Skills week. It will give you tips on how to study effectively and write the best essays. Visit

Jenni Middleton, editor Follow me on Twitter @nursingtimesed


Readers' comments (4)

  • Try applying for a practice nurse job - too many applicants for one job. Lots of interest here for practice nursing.

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  • "If someone tells you they’re a doctor, you probably immediately ask which kind." Many people might think, diagnosing + consultations, occasionally chopping + fixing a few bits. Someone to speak to when needing specific answers to queries.

    " you’re a nurse, how often do they conjure up an image of you walking a ward, tending to sick adults or children?" Or more likely a general dogs-body, working very hard, cleaning up after everyone's mess, delivering care 24/7 and someone turn to when they don't know what's wrong or generally need help. Forgetting some are specialized, others highly trained + experienced.
    Nurses are in unique position to oversee patient's overall care, from prevention/promotion, birth to death (+ beyond) and some care of relatives. We experience how long it takes + challenging it is to feed, wash, clean, dress, communicate, administer meds, continuing physio + rehab, promoting independence to a person in need. Generally people need to be reminded nurses are important, not enough around, are highly skilled + experienced.

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  • I'd love to move into practice nursing, but all the ads in my region for the last 2yrs have wanted people with previous experience & already qualified in travel health/cervical screening/imms & vacs/long-term condition management etc etc, which particularly for small GP practices is understandable given the cost implications of training you. much for transferrable skills.
    NES Scotland seems to be focussing on funded training for newly-appointed practice nurses - Catch 22 until you get that 1st job.
    Intro to Practice Nursing modules cost money & require a placement, which you have to arrange yourself basically hoping to find a practice with a qualified mentor who are prepared to altruistically use up practice nurse hours supervising you. The local NHS organisation occasionally has funded places on the Intro module, but only for staff it already employs & feels are able to be released from their current post.

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  • I teach lots of practice nurse and those wanting to be practice nurses. Try to get on a child imms course then chat up your local PN to help you get your practice assessment done-same with travel-then a wound care study day or two and you are on the road to PN employability. Good luck!!

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