On International Nurses Day, Lisa Stoddart, Lead Practice Nurse at Aspen Medical Practice in Gloucester explains why being a General Practice Nurse (GPN) is a rewarding and dynamic career choice.

With a total of 32 years of nursing experience, Lisa has now notched up 10 of those years as a practice nurse. Her previous roles include diabetes specialist nurse and a community nurse in both London and Gloucester. Lisa qualified in 1992 and worked as a hospital staff nurse after qualifying.

She said: “I had taken a bit of a career break and it was a way of getting back into nursing. I had young children, had done my time at the hospital and felt I had the skills and knowledge around diabetes that would be useful in primary care.

“There are many benefits to working in primary care and I definitely consider it an exciting career choice. There are so many opportunities within primary care to do different things.

“It’s not shift work and gives you a great work/life balance.

“Practice nurses can develop their knowledge and skills and can become a prescriber within a few years or develop a specialty. It enables you to be more autonomous.

“There’s a lot more scope for development and it’s led by the practice.”

Areas that practice nurses can specialise in include:

  • minor and complex wound management including leg ulcers
  • travel health advice and vaccinations
  • child immunisations and advice
  • family planning & women’s health including cervical smears
  • men’s health screening
  • sexual health services
  • smoking cessation
  • blood pressure monitoring
  • health promotion
  • screening and helping patients to manage long term conditions (LTC) including diabetes, kidney disease and asthma

“Primary care is a great place to work,” added Lisa.

“At Aspen, we’re a team of 20 nurses and healthcare assistants (HCA) and we’re very collaborative.

“We’re there for the patients and everything we do is with them at the centre so if we are a good team and we work together, it spills over to them”.

The General Practice Nursing Ten Point Plan was developed by national nursing chiefs to stimulate and boost the recruitment of GPNs. In order to encourage newly qualified nurses into practice nursing they are no longer required to complete two years of nursing before becoming a GPN.

Practice nurses are able to explore a range of avenues for development. With further training and experience, they can apply for more senior roles such as senior practice nurse, nurse practitioner or advanced nurse practitioner.

These roles support independent working giving nurses more freedom to manage their own caseloads. There are also opportunities to move into education, management, teaching/lecturer or clinical research. Preceptor/mentor roles gives nurses the opportunity to support other nurses in their careers.

Lisa added: “I also work for the Gloucestershire Primary Care Hub as a legacy mentor supporting newly qualified nurses. Legacy mentors provide a safe space to talk about concerns, provide support and help with career transition.

“In Gloucestershire there is also a preceptorship programme for nurses and nursing associates who want to gain core skills in primary care.  

“There used to be an idea that primary care was somewhere for nurses to work out their days until retirement but that’s absolutely not the case. There is now a lot of focus on promoting primary care as a career and rightly so,” said Lisa.