Job descriptions and industry overviews

Practice nurse: job description

21 Jun 2023, 15:39

Practice nurses (also known as general practice nurses) work in GP surgeries where they plan and provide nursing care, treatment and health education to patients of all ages.

man in gp surgery to represent practice nursing

What does a practice nurse do? Salaries | Typical employers | Qualifications and training | Skills

Practice nurses work in GP surgeries alongside other healthcare professionals including doctors, health visitors, pharmacists and dietitians. They provide treatment and advice to a wide range of patients, as well as administering tests to aid diagnosis.

Typical duties include:

  • holding patient consultations within surgeries or health centres
  • carrying out physical examinations and tests such as cervical smear and pregnancy tests
  • providing advice about contraception and fitting contraceptive devices
  • treating wounds and providing emergency first aid
  • applying and removing dressings
  • giving advice, education and information about chronic health conditions and ailments, stopping smoking and losing weight
  • taking patient samples, swabs and specimens, and checking pulses, temperatures and blood pressures
  • administering immunisations, travel vaccinations and infant injections
  • running well woman and man clinics and clinics for specific ailments such as diabetes and asthma
  • delegating tasks to healthcare assistants
  • writing records and keeping patients’ notes up to date
  • assisting GPs with minor procedures.

At larger GP surgeries, there may be a team of practice nurses; in smaller GP surgeries you could work alone and be responsible for a range of tasks.

Graduate salaries

General practice nurses tend to employed by individual surgeries rather than the NHS, so salaries are set by each practice. As the Nation Health Services website states, if you work for the NHS, you’re likely to start at band 6 on a salary of around £32,000. If you work in London, you’ll be eligible for a high-cost area supplement to cover the increased cost of living and working in the capital.

Typical employers of practice nurses

  • Health centres.
  • Clinics.
  • GP surgeries.

Vacancies appear online, in newspapers, on the NHS jobs website and healthcare publications such as Nursing Times and Nursing Standard. Some GP surgeries advertise practice nurse roles on their own websites. You can also find jobs advertised by individual practices and on local jobs boards.

Qualifications and training required

You will need to be a qualified and registered adult, child, mental health or learning disability nurse to work in general practice and will also need to take on further training and education for the role after qualifying.

You could also start working towards a career as a general practice nurse without going to university straight away, by working as a healthcare assistant or assistant practitioner and develop your skills before starting your nursing degree.

The main route into qualifying as a nurse is to take a nursing degree in one of the four nursing specialisms: adult nursing, children's nursing, learning disability nursing or mental health nursing. Some degree courses cover two of these fields, and are known as 'dual field' degrees. Nursing degree courses provide a mix of formal teaching and practical experience.

You can apply for full-time undergraduate nursing degrees through UCAS. Application criteria vary but you are likely to need at least two (more often three) A levels or equivalent qualifications, plus GCSEs in English, maths and a science.

If you already have a degree in a subject such as life, health, biological or social science, you can qualify as a nurse via a shortened two-year postgraduate course (also known as a conversion course ). You will need to check directly with institutions to find out if your degree course is acceptable for entry.

You can also qualify as a nurse via a degree apprenticeship. These are similar to nursing degrees in that they involve a mix of academic study and placements, but you’ll be working in a health-related role such as a nursing associate. You’ll be released from your job to study regularly, and you’ll also learn on the job through practice scenarios and placements. The length of your course will depend on your existing experience; for example, if you’re an experienced nursing associate you may be eligible for a shorter course.

There are also nursing associate higher apprenticeships available. You’ll spend 20 per cent of your time studying for around two years while also working in a health-related role such as a healthcare support worker. Find out more about nursing associate apprenticeships.

All nurses working in the UK must be registered with the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC). When you complete your nursing degree, your university will pass on your details to the NMC, which then invites you to apply for registration. You’re required to renew your registration and pay the registration fee each year, and must revalidate your registration every three years. You’ll need to complete a minimum of 35 hours’ continuing professional development (CPD) and 450 hours’ registered practice over three years.

You don’t need work experience to become a nurse, but any gained caring for or working with people can be helpful – for example, working as a care assistant or volunteering with children. Work experience will not only give you an insight into whether the role is right for you but also help you start to build essential skills, such as being able to think on your feet.

Key skills for general practice nurses

  • Adaptability.
  • Excellent teamwork skills.
  • Excellent verbal and written communication skills.
  • The confidence to work with people from all backgrounds.
  • Good organisational skills.
  • The ability to take initiative.
  • Critical thinking and the ability to make informed decisions.

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