International Nurses Day: Looking to the future

Staff at Aughton surgery learning Makaton

Maggi Bradley, recently named Practice Nurse of the Year at the annual General Practice awards, celebrates the significant impact of student nurses on International Nurses Day 2022. Maggi is also the nursing clinical lead for the Sefton training hub.

Happy International Nurses Day to my colleagues in West Lancashire and beyond!

Each year on 12 May, the anniversary of Florence Nightingale’s birth, we take the opportunity to reflect upon the outstanding contribution of nurses across all health and social care settings. This day has been particularly pertinent since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic as colleagues worked relentlessly to deal with the complications from the virus.

We usually use today to highlight those who have dedicated their lives to nursing (and correctly so), but this year I wanted to focus on the next generation. I have been in this industry for more than 35 years and am frequently motivated to improve by students, with one recent project reminding me you never stop learning in this job.

At my practice, Aughton Surgery, we welcomed two student learning disabilities nurses (Jess Lea and Kim Wareing) on 12-week placements. In such a short space of time they have overhauled and improved our learning disability (LD) review process.

Annual health checks for our LD patients aged 14 and older are a vital regular touchpoint which allow us to build a rapport, offer an opportunity for them to share any concerns and identify any health concerns at an early stage. To make this run as smoothly and comfortably as possible, we called upon the expertise of Jess and Kim in their capacity as third-year LD student nurses at Edge Hill University.

They have taken ownership of the project: educating the entire team on good practice; analysing the settings we use; reframing how we contact patients prior to appointments; and identifying how we can make reasonable adjustments for people who need them, including the addition of this information to their electronic patient records.

Makaton signs on a poster in Aughton surgery

Ultimately, they have used a patient-centred approach to create a supportive and accessible environment for patients. The care we offer is now more encompassing of physical health, mental health and impacting social factors. Initial feedback since we mobilised these key changes has been exceptional, with those attending finding it easier to communicate and feeling more comfortable as a result. The benefits from a healthcare perspective are there to see, too, as we have a more relaxed patient and can gain much more from the appointments.

It’s a powerful showcase of the impact student nurses can have, not just in primary care, but across the whole NHS. Jess and Kim’s enthusiasm to achieve positive change is infectious and the effect on our practice invaluable. Consequently, our staff feel better equipped and more confident than ever to welcome patients with learning difficulties to the practice.

Personally, it has been a privilege to work alongside them. They have certainly challenged me and the way in which I communicate with LD patients, and I have no doubt I am a much-improved nurse by being introduced to new ways of thinking.

Finishing how I started, please use today to appreciate those you know who are involved in the profession or nurses who may have cared for you recently or in previous years. A small gesture can go a long way to those working tirelessly to provide care across all NHS settings.

A special thank you to Jess, Kim and all the other student nurses out there making an incredible difference to our NHS: you inspire us every day.