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Investing in GI nursing

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Every clinician thinks their speciality is the best, should have the most funding, the best resources and the highest quality patient experience.

I am no different.

I have been a nurse within the gastroenterological (GI) surgical speciality for the past 20 years, and remain passionate about nurses, nursing and patient care within it.

There have been many advances in GI over those years. Enhanced recovery programmes have led to a paradigm shift in patient preparation, surgical techniques and recovery, and allow clinicians to help get the patient out of hospital sooner without changing the discharge criteria. These programmes are now seen as the baseline, and are pushing the boundaries of both specialist nursing and highly skilled care.

However, the rise in people being diagnosed with bowel cancer has also led to an increased need to develop nurses and nursing care in GI. Furthermore, national issues around staff retention, limited continuing professional development (CPD) funding, and study leave support for GI nurses further complicate the current situation. The advent of the national bowel screening programme has also led to an increase in demand for specialist screening practitioners, and nurse endoscopists, to share the workload.

“Educating and keeping the workforce remains a constant priority”

Due to the diverse sub-specialities within GI, educating and keeping the workforce remains a constant priority. This is a challenge, but also a great opportunity to help nurses and the nursing profession develop.

It was in this context that we launched the GI Academy at Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust. Our mission statement was to help our GI nurses learn and develop while on the job, recognise their commitment to the speciality, and reward their continuing education.

Keeping nurses at the bedside, but ensuring they keep up to date and enthused to learn has to be the way forward, and the GI Academy has this at its heart.

“The emphasis is on putting learning into practice”

The GI Academy’s award framework offers awards for all levels of nursing staff, from nursing assistants to matrons and heads of nursing, and leads to the development of a portfolio of practice, reflections, evidence (which also includes length of service within the speciality), annual appraisal and revalidation. The emphasis is on putting learning into practice, and we are now working to develop this with our other allied heath professional colleagues.

The GI Academy’s academic partner is King’s College London, and as such our nurses can gain academic and professional accreditation for their portfolios, and gain work-based learning credits towards degree and master’s levels qualifications. The academy also has industry partners who we work closely with to develop education, training, mentoring and other of means of support for our teams in clinical practice.

“In the GI speciality there is a huge opportunity to develop”

In summary, with increasing demand across the NHS, tight budgets, and gaps in the recruitment and retention of nurses, a new way forward is needed. More specifically, in the GI speciality there is a huge opportunity to develop roles, advance clinical skills, and promote multidisciplinary working across primary and secondary care.

The GI Academy has been the trailblazer, and continues to be refined and developed as we go forward. Indeed, the GI Academy is now being replicated within other specialities within the Trust, following our example in promoting lifelong learning, pursuing excellence and supporting their team’s professional development.

I am an evangelist for my speciality, and hope that the launch of the GI Academy will help other nurse and healthcare professionals develop in this critical speciality.

Fiona Hibberts, Consultant Nurse in GI Surgery/ Endoscopist, Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust

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