Until recently, Joanne Anderson was the General Practice Nurse at Beith Medical Centre in North Ayrshire. After 21 years in practice nursing, Joanne has just been appointed NHS Ayrshire & Arran’s Senior Nurse for Primary Care.
I remember a conversation with my guidance teacher at school around career choices and wanting to be a nurse. I wanted to make people feel better. His disappointing response was that “it’s every schoolgirl’s dream to be a nurse” and he said I should have something to fall back on such as secretarial studies.
To be honest, I had little insight to what was involved and wrote to every hospital I could find in the phonebook looking for advice. I often tell this story and how I would have liked the opportunity to speak to my guidance teacher to let him know I did it. Despite what I considered a discouraging conversation, I am the first nurse in my family.
On qualifying, my hospital experience included respiratory medicine, surgical nursing, orthopaedics and gynaecology. I always managed to find additional interest supervising nursing and SVQ students, health promotion activity, creating patient pathways and new services and surgical bed management. However, it was not really until I started working in gynaecology that I developed an interest in reproductive and sexual health and sought out additional sessional work in this area. This really opened my eyes to working in the community and truly understanding what mattered to individuals and their family and as a nurse how we support people to be all they can be.
This led to my first General Practice Nurse (GPN) post entering a whole new world of nursing which I have now enjoyed for 21 years.
There is no such thing as a typical day in the life of a GPN and that’s the great thing about it. We see acutely unwell individuals, support individuals with long term and often complex conditions, health promotion and screening activity, immunisation, reproductive health, travel health – the list would be endless. Expert knowledge is paramount and it is the combination of that expert knowledge with kindness and time taken to listen that really makes the difference in people’s lives.
Combined with my clinical role, I am the NHS Education for Scotland GPN education advisor for our health board, supporting GPNs with both peer appraisal and their educational needs.
General practice is at a time of great change, influenced by transforming roles, the GP contract and Primary Care Improvement Plan. This has been the main driver which has led me to be successful in recently changing roles and now I am the Senior Nurse for primary care for Ayrshire & Arran. It is hugely important to me that general practice nursing has a voice in the future of primary care, shaping the future. This role will provide much needed professional leadership and a vehicle for GPNs to engage fully in the change process and influence primary care services of the future.
General Practice nursing is a unique area of nursing. We care for individuals across all the age range. We are invited into people’s lives, form long-lasting and trusting relationships and are privileged to share and support people at times of great joy and great sorrow.
What other area of nursing sees the baby become a young adult, have family of their own and become grandparents. It’s fantastic to follow and support individuals and families on their journey.
The skillset of a GPN is vast, they are real expert generalists and the endurance athletes of the nursing profession. I love passing the kids when I’m walking to work and they give me a wave, when people seek me out to let me know they’re feeling better and when families let us know they’re loved one has passed on peacefully.
My issue for development is to promote GPN and primary care nursing, develop integrated nursing teams and to enable the GPN voice to be heard. There has never been greater opportunity to do this. My new role has created the vehicle for this to happen. Very visible leadership is a priority and I have been creating opportunities. Work is underway to develop new ways of working across our general practice and DN teams. Sharing expertise, supporting patients and learning together. Beside this I have developed the Ayrshire Graduate Nurse Development programme introducing newly qualified staff nurses to learn the skills required to work in primary care setting. This will build our future workforce, create a dynamic and flexible team and promote primary care as a first career destination.
The focus of general practice is the health and wellbeing of the community we serve and our practice populations are at the centre of everything we do. That enables us to bring compassion and professional expertise to addressing the needs of individuals, families and neighbourhoods over time. My vision for expanded nursing teams within primary care will enable us to work together more effectively to truly make a difference to the communities of Ayrshire,
Becoming a Queen’s Nurse adds a level of excitement to this vision. It has been a programme of self-development. I have been supported to explore the person I am, my passions, my values, my drive and how proud I am to be a nurse. I accept who I am, how I influence others and celebrate in what others see in me. I have shared this journey with inspiring peers who I believe are now lifelong friends.
As a Queen’s Nurse, I will continue on my journey, being true to myself, inspiring others and support our primary care nursing colleagues to flourish and have their voice heard.
Photos by Lesley Martin photography