’I was pleased to hear that I would be placed with a practice nurse in a GP surgery’ says Adult sNursing Student Laura
My phone pinged with the familiar eruption of messages following the announcement of placement allocations. My course mates were brimming with excitement and anxiety about their own placements and curiosity about where their colleagues would be spending the next five weeks.
I was pleased to hear that I would be placed with a practice nurse in a GP surgery, particularly because I had read that practice nurse placements are quite rare due to the private nature of GP surgeries and associated funding issues.
My preconceptions of this placement were based solely on my experiences visiting my own GP surgery, and to some extent these assumptions matched the reality. I saw the practice nurse administering immunisations, carrying out cervical screening and providing routine health checks for patients registering at the surgery. However, this surgery was slightly different than my expectations in that it was specifically aimed at providing care for those with difficulties registering at other GPs. This distinctive focus afforded me some unusual opportunities.
I was lucky enough to see the outreach work which the practice offers to the homeless population in their area. The practice nurse and I visited community services which offered showers, clean clothes and breakfast for clients. We set up our clinic so that the service users could ask us questions about their health. We made sure they were registered with a GP and referred for appointments when needed.
At first it was nerve wracking stepping into this environment, and I felt quite out of my depth without the usual routine of a 15 minute consultation, but I quickly discovered that the nurse had built a good rapport with the service users and many were keen to speak with us, ask questions and have their blood pressure checked. Working alongside housing and addiction support services, the nurse regularly carries out night duty, visiting homeless people in the local area wherever they are sleeping.
Rough sleepers face structural and attitudinal barriers to accessing care, despite having a greater number of more complex health needs. I saw first-hand how many service users were simply unaware that they could register with the GP without the appropriate paperwork.
This outreach service may not seem like traditional nursing, and it has taken some time for me to understand how it is relevant to my journey to becoming a nurse. However, during this time of increased pressure on our health system, when estimates show that the homeless population consumes about four times more acute hospital services than the general population, perhaps we should all be looking at innovative ways in which we can deliver compassionate care.
Laura Wilson, PGDip Adult Nursing student, City, University of London