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Practice Nurse - Careers in Nursing

Our guide to the responsibilities, hours, and requirements to becoming a Practice Nurse.
Written on 2/27/14

Practice Nurses are a hugely important part of Britain's healthcare system, trained to assist doctors in vital medical procedures and provide patients with friendly reassurance and advice during their treatment. Being a Practice Nurse can bring a high level of job satisfaction, but can also be demanding and high pressure.

What is a Practice Nurse?

Practice nurses work in both GP surgeries and out in the wider community. They form part of the primary healthcare team, which includes doctors, pharmacists and dieticians - and may often be the first point of contact for incoming patients. Broadly speaking, a practice nurse would be involved in:

  • treating injuries and performing routine medical procedures
  • screening for health conditions
  • family planning
  • vaccinations and immunisations
  • advising patients about on-going treatment

These diverse duties require compassion, patience and excellent communication skills. On a day-to-day basis, nurses may need to perform dozens of different medical procedures and interact with a huge number of patients, each with their own specific needs and problems.

Practice nursing: a typical day

Typically, the working day of a practice nurse is a busy one - especially at the beginning and end of the week. Morning patients arrive at 9am but, before that, nurses must perform admin tasks in order to prepare for the coming day. While patients are normally fit into a tight schedule, the pattern can change frequently and nurses should be able to anticipate no-shows and late additions to their lists. Practice nurses will likely be dealing with a large number of elderly patients, but should expect a spectrum of ages, from toddlers and teenagers - to adults.

In the afternoon, clinics and GP surgeries often devote time to effectively managing common illnesses and diseases, including diabetes, asthma and hypertension - and schedule their patients accordingly. Afternoons are also a time for travel, as practice nurses head out into the community to treat patients who may be unable to reach the GP themselves. They may also be required to travel to schools or community centres to administer vaccinations or deliver information and advice to students and families. Since GP surgeries offer appointments until 6:30pm, late afternoons and evening are often the times when practice nurses will offer screenings and childhood immunisations.

Practice nurses can expect to work 37.5 hours a week, from Monday to Friday - although some roles require evening and weekend duties. The role is, however, reasonably flexible -with part time and job sharing positions possible.

Becoming a Practice Nurse             

Like every other type of nurse, practice nurses must be registered before they take up professional positions. To become registered, student nurses must train for three years in a pre-registration degree, involving 50% practical and 50% theory components. After qualification, most practice nurse vacancies require candidates to have two years' professional experience - some employers may also prefer prospective practice nurses to have completed a community specialist practitioner programme.

Becoming a practice nurse represents a chance to have a direct and positive effect on the community around you. While the job may be difficult at times, each day brings new and exciting challenges - and promises a rewarding career path which leads to senior nursing and managerial positions.