General practices are busy places at the best of times. So practice managers can be forgiven for perhaps being slightly hesitant when faced with a request from one of their practice nurses to spend a day away from the surgery enhancing their professional development by attending a conference.
However, when you consider that such development is not only a professional requirement for nurses, as part of the Nursing and Midwifery Council's Post Registration Education and Practice (PREP) requirements, but can also benefit the practice team as a whole, such requests should be seen as valuable opportunities.
Nursing in Practice Events, run by the organisers of Management in Practice Events, take place throughout the year in major cities around the UK – London, Manchester, Birmingham, Glasgow and Cardiff – and 2008 sees two new venues, Belfast and Newcastle. Each event consists of a range of topical and relevant presentations on both clinical and professional issues by prominent speakers, as well as a vast range of primary care exhibitors.
All Nursing in Practice Events to date have met the standards of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) Accreditation Unit. As such, attendance at these events makes a significant contribution to a nurse's professional development.
Nursing in Practice Events comprise presentations and workshops by RCN-approved speakers and topics, as well as a vast range of primary care exhibitors – commercial
suppliers of goods and services, educational institutions and charities.
Attending a Nursing in Practice Event for a day is of course only a small portion of the 50 hours per year that nurses are required to spend in professional development. Nonetheless, the learning opportunities on offer provide significant gains.
Sylvia Letson, a practice nurse at Brecon Medical Group Practice in Powys attended the Nursing in Practice Event in Cardiff earlier this year. She says that what she gained from the event "definitely outweighs the time away. I gained eight hours towards PREP, which is no mean feat. There's lots going on – you have choices of two lectures [parallel presentation/workshop sessions] and, in between, these wonderful stands you can visit and gain reams of information, so I thought it was brilliant."
Yet it's not only the attending nurses who can gain from these events. As Mrs Letson says: "We have six nurses in our surgery, and of course we can't all go, plus 10 doctors. Anything that's useful we share with everybody."
Marilyn Eveleigh, consultant editor of the journal Nursing in Practice, says that the wider benefits to practice teams are an important aspect of these events. "Participants are strongly encouraged to feed back their learning to the practices," she says. "Anyone who attends should bring back three changes to their practice that can benefit patients and the practice team. These changes could be of a clinical nature, or a new approach to patient involvement, or something that supports the Quality and Outcomes Framework, such as efficiency or access."
Recalling her highlights of the event, practice nurse Mrs Letson supports this mix of clinical and nonclinical information. She says she was particularly impressed by an "excellent" talk on the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination by a senior lecturer in clinical oncology, as well as by RCN Deputy Director Richard Jones' talk on the NHS pension scheme. Of the latter, she says: "Pensions is something we don't often get to talk about – but this talk encouraged me to go on and look at my predicted pension."
The next Nursing in Practice Event will take place on 25–26 September at the Business Design Centre in Islington, London. This event will include presentations from charities Alzheimer's UK and the Princess Royal Trust for Carers, as well as talks on smoking cessation, obesity management and immunisation.
As Marilyn Eveleigh says, the events are an opportunity for nurses "to feel integrated, to network with others and to bring back fresh ideas to the practice. They offer a broad range of clinical and professional updates on one day, in one place."
Mrs Letson adds: "I think practice managers would be fools not to encourage their nurses to attend these events. It was a brilliant day and I would recommend anybody to go."