Practice Nurse

The Job and What's Involved

Practice nurses assess, screen, treat and educate all sections of the community, from babies to older people. They work within GP practices to help doctors give nursing and medical care.

As a practice nurse, your duties could include:

  • Setting up and running clinics for conditions such as asthma, diabetes, heart conditions and skin disorders.
  • Offering advice on family planning and contraception.
  • Taking blood and urine samples and other specimens and swabs.
  • Performing routine procedures such as ear syringing, applying and removing dressings and treating wounds.
  • Offering specialist information and advice on issues such as blood pressure, weight control and stopping smoking.
  • Carrying out infant injections, vaccinations and travel immunisations.
  • Giving advice to patients on long-term medical and nursing needs.

In larger GP surgeries you may work alongside other practice nurses and have the opportunity to specialise, for example in the needs of a particular client group.

You would generally work 37.5 hours a week, Monday to Friday. You may need to work occasional evenings or weekends, for example if you are running a health promotion clinic. Part-time hours and job sharing are often available.

This work can be physically and emotionally demanding and you may work with clients who are distressed and suffering with long-term illness.

Practice nurses can earn between £25,500 and £34,200.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

You could work with GP practices or local health centres as part of a primary care team including other nurses, dietitians and pharmacists.

The role of the practice nurse is expanding and you may be able to combine your community role, for example with prison nursing.

Education and Training

To work as a practice nurse you need:

To be a registered nurse, usually within the child or adult branch.

Around two years' post-qualifying experience.

To qualify as a nurse you need to complete a Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) approved degree or Diploma of Higher Education in Nursing.

You may have an advantage if you have experience of working with patients in areas such as:

- Chronic disease management (such as diabetes & asthma)
- Wound dressing
- Childhood immunisation
- Cervical cytology
- Phlebotomy (taking blood)

Some employers will also prefer you to have completed a community specialist practitioner programme, specialising in general practice nursing.

A Few More Exams You Might Need

If you do not already have a community specialist practitioner degree or postgraduate diploma (specialising in general practice nursing), it may help your career to work towards this.

Courses combine theoretical study with work-based experience across a range of public health services (some include training in nurse prescribing). For a list of courses, see the NMC website.

Courses can take between 12 and 18 months full-time or 2 to 3 years part-time to complete. Course providers can advise about funding options, which may be available through your regional strategic health authority (or you may need to fund yourself). You will need Criminal Records Bureau clearance when you apply for a course.

Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

A practice nurse needs:

  • A basic understanding of child protection and public health issues.
  • An understanding of infection control procedures.
  • Excellent communication and listening skills.
  • The ability to inspire confidence and trust.
  • The ability to work with people of all ages and backgrounds.
  • A flexible and adaptable approach to work.
  • Patience and empathy.
  • Good teamworking skills and the ability to work alone.
  • Good organisational skills.
  • Basic IT skills.
  • The ability to keep accurate and up-to-date patient records.

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Your Long Term Prospects

With experience and qualifications you could progress to nurse practitioner level, which would involve managing your own case load of patients.

You could become more involved in health promotion, running workshops or clinics on issues such as women's health, prevention of coronary heart disease and immunisation.

You may also have the opportunity to specialise in, for example, chronic disease management and health issues like diabetes or asthma care.

Get Further Information

Skills for Health,
Goldsmiths House, Broad Plain, Bristol BS2 0JP
Tel: 0117 922 1155

Universities and Colleges
Admissions Services (UCAS),
Rosehill, New Barn Lane, Cheltenham,
Gloucestershire GL52 3LZ
Tel: 0870 1122 211

Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC),
23 Portland Place, London W1B 1PZ
Tel: 020 7333 9333

NHS Careers, PO Box 376, Bristol BS99 3EY
Tel: 0345 60 60 655

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