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Northern Ireland seeking to expand advanced nurse role

A report aimed at developing and expanding the role of the advanced nurse practitioner (ANP) in Northern Ireland has been published.

The report made a series of recommendations to the Northern Irish Department of Health (DoH) and nursing educators and employers aimed at increasing the numbers and contributions of the ANP role.

“This report will help build a critical mass of advanced nurse practitioners across our heath and social care system”

Linda Kelly

Led by the Northern Ireland Practice and Education Council for Nursing and Midwifery (NIPEC) and commissioned by the country’s chief nursing officer (CNO), Maria McIlgorm, the hope is that the report will lead to more nurses working at an advanced practice level.

The report found that increasing the numbers of ANPs, and nurses more broadly, would be key to meeting future health needs including those presented by the world-wide ageing population.

As well as this, it suggested that the way ANPs are trained needed to be reformed, and it also called for the widening of ANPs to more areas of health and social care.

For the Northern Irish DoH, the report made nine recommendations.

Among these were for the DoH to develop a governance framework for ANPs and more leadership structures to support these roles.

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The DoH was also asked to change ANP education commissioning. Specifically, the report recommended that commissioning should be on a three-year cycle aligned to workforce planning.

It was also asked to set up a preceptorship framework to support newly-qualified ANPs, to create more ways to measure the impact of ANPs, and to improve the funding behind everything which goes into training an ANP, including backfill and education.

Employer organisations were given 10 recommendations. The first was a plea to make sure other health and social care staff develop an “understanding and appreciation” for the role, and better integrate it.

As part of this, employers were told to ensure their organisational policies allowed ANPs to make full use of their qualifications, including the ability to order x-rays, prescribe medications and refer patients to other healthcare professionals.

It made further recommendations about job planning with the aim of making the process of recruiting and training ANPs quicker and easier for organisations, and about creating more support structures including mentor roles for new ANPs.

Thirdly, higher education institutions were given four recommendations to help ensure more ANPs are able to be trained.

“I am committed to growing this workforce and embedding advanced nursing practice across a range of clinical settings”

Maria McIlgorm

Among these was one recommendation to ensure they are – as part of the course – trained in independent and supplementary prescribing, and that courses are taught by “an expert in a relevant field of practice with recent clinical experience”.

Northern Ireland CNO Ms McIlgorm said she believed the report would have a “valuable impact” on the development of the ANP role in the country.

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“We already have evidence of the high-quality care this brings for those who use our services,” said Ms McIlgorm.

“This must be our ultimate goal, and I am committed to growing this workforce and embedding advanced nursing practice across a range of clinical settings.”

Linda Kelly, chief executive for NIPEC, added: “People in Northern Ireland deserve to be cared for by a workforce with the right skills, in the right place who deliver a compassionate and person-centred service we can be proud of.

“To support this, the implementation of the recommendations presented in this report will help build a critical mass of advanced nurse practitioners across our heath and social care system, aimed at addressing population health needs and optimising health outcomes for people, families and communities: now and in the future.”

This latest report came after a previous one in 2016, also commissioned by the DoH, aimed at clarifying what the ANP role did.

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