COVID-19 spotlight on district nursing triggers surge in bids for future leaders programme

COVID-19 has put the role of the district nurse at the forefront of community care, triggering a huge rise in the number of applicants to GCU’s renowned advancing practice programme.

The number of applications has “gone through the roof” this year with community nurses flocking to apply for our PgD Advancing District Nursing Practice with Specialist Practitioner Qualification.

The number of students accepted onto the programme has trebled to 45 with students from all over Scotland applying to GCU because of its fantastic reputation.

Demand for the specialist practitioner qualification has been so great that the Department of Nursing and Community Health in the School of Health and Life Sciences is planning a second intake of another 20 students in January.

From the 45 students who started the programme last month, 34 are nurses working with Greater Glasgow and Clyde NHS in Renfrewshire, Glasgow city and Inverclyde, 10 students are from Forth Valley and one is from NHS Highland. Forty-one are on the full-time one-year programme and four have chosen the two-year part-time option.

Dr Jacqueline McCallum, Head of Department said the surge in numbers was also down the tenacity and professionalism of Adult Community Nursing lecturer Helena Kelly, who is the PgD Advancing District Nursing Practice Programme Leader.

Dr Karen Roome, Assistant head of department added: “Helena has been working closely with the health boards, particularly in the west of Scotland, to make sure that the courses we offer reflects their needs and offers a different emphasis to the programme than some other universities offer.

“As a consequence of that we have seen applications go through the roof to a point where we are now planning to put in place a second intake in January which we normally wouldn’t do.”

In 2019, there were 15 students on the course (class of 2019 pictured).  The programme is designed for registered nurses who want to build on their existing knowledge and develop new skills. It prepares them for a challenging and rewarding career as a specialist practitioner.

Helena (pictured below) said: “I am really excited. To have this cohort of 45 is fantastic. What a great opportunity to really embed all the principles of district nursing and that leadership focus. These are our future leaders in district nursing.

“What makes the programme unique is that these are community nursing staff that are put forward and sponsored by practice partners to come and do this year’s full-time or the two-years part-time educational programme to become district nurses with advanced skills involving high-level decision-making, clinical assessment and judgement, to become a real leader in district nursing.

“I was a district nurse for 23 years and joined GCU in 2015. For years district nursing has been a Cinderella service but Covid-19 has really brought the essential role that a district nurse plays in the community to the forefront.”

Helena is currently studying a Professional Doctorate (ProfDoc) concentrating her thesis on ‘why there a few district nurse leaders represented at strategic level within the NHS and the Scottish Government’.

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