This International Nurses Day, General Practice Nurse (GPN) and Nurse Partner Nichola Winstanley from Drybrook Surgery explains why she’s so passionate about being immersed in the community.

Nichola has worked as a GPN since 2006, becoming a nurse partner in June 2023 – a role that she shares with Nurse Practitioner Katie Dyer and GP partner Dr Anna Raymond.

Starting out as a healthcare assistant (HCA), Nichola then embarked on her nurse diploma qualifying as a nurse in 2004. She went straight into primary care as a district nurse and in 2006 started a degree as community specialist practitioner.

In 2017, Nichola started a role as a specialist respiratory nurse but returned to practice nursing.

She said: “This surgery is so important to people. It’s not always easy for people to get around in the Forest because of the geography and so it makes a real difference to have a local surgery.”

Within the partnership of three, Nichola and the partners are responsible for everything to do with the surgery including day to day running and upkeep. This includes deciding how many staff are employed, what the skill mix is (including the different types of healthcare professionals such as pharmacists or advance nurse practitioners) and its financial position.

There is a warm atmosphere in the building and Nichola compares it to running a big house.

She said: “We are very staff-centric and we believe if we ensure our staff are happy, then that will radiate to the patients.

“We’ve worked really hard on lifting staff morale and it was the first thing we looked at when we became partners.”

“One of the first things we did was got a big table so that everyone can have their lunch break together. It may seem like a small thing but it’s had a big impact.

“Once the staff were happy it rippled down.”

Nichola and the practice team are working well together as part of the Forest Primary Care Network (PCN).

She said: “It’s Important to be part of a PCN because it allows us to pool our resources so people can get support, the respiratory hub for instance is so successful, it will now run all year round.

By working together, the Forest of Dean PCN has been able to offer patients increased access with evening appointments.

“My favourite thing about being a practice nurse is that we are absolutely immersed in the community. We build relationships with our patients and get to know them and they get to know us.

“I love the work we do on chronic disease management, continuously seeing people with long term conditions (LTCs) and supporting them. Again, it’s the long-lasting relationships that are being built, that continuity of care through practice nursing which I feel so passionate about.”

“There’s such scope for development, at the moment I’m doing prescribing but there are so many options.

“We get to mould the surgery and the way it works for the benefit of patients.. Our patients want to know GPs and nurses by face and know their surgery.

“Patients can see an ANP for more complex issues and obviously a GP so it’s a whole spectrum of care.”