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How To Get The Most Out Of Your GP Nursing Team

21 Jun 11:00 by Helena Murphy

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Having an integrated multidiscipline team in General Practice is an invaluable asset for any clinic.

When GPs come together with practice nurses, support staff and other healthcare professionals, patient outcomes and clinic performance both stand to benefit.

In fact, a recent Grattan Institute Report found that teamwork between GPs, pharmacists, nurses and allied health professionals is essential for better-integrated care. It was found to be particularly helpful for people who are at risk, or have complex and chronic conditions.

What’s more, the CSIRO Future Of Health Report found that consumers are now demanding faster, cheaper, more personalised, and preventative health solutions that are delivered with high quality customer service. They are expecting greater convenience – services delivered when they want it, where they want it, and with the ability to control both.

To this end, Australia has invested $275 million in “GP super clinics” across the country. These new clinics, alongside the network of small and mid-sized clinics, are integral to supporting increasingly demanding patients and healthcare requirements in Australia.

Due to these increasing demands, it’s highly likely that nurses are an important part of your current or future team. But are you and your team making effective use of your nursing workforce?

Below are four pointers to help you get the most out of your GP nursing team.

1. Ensure you have adequate staffing

Building an efficient team for your clinic isn’t just about the number of nurses you hire.  

It’s about finding the right nurses.

A medical practice with a highly skilled registered nursing team can offer more comprehensive care ranging from immunisations and wound dressing to specialised clinics for chronic conditions. Recruiting nurse practitioners for your clinic can make an even more significant impact as they have the ability to prescribe medications and formulate treatment plans. By seeing patients independently, nurse practitioners can free up GPs’ time to focus on more complex cases.

When building your nurse team, take time to research the needs of your local community. Then you can look to hire people who bring expertise and skills in corresponding areas.

For example, the CSIRO Future Of Health Report shows significant disparities in health between populations living in rural and urban areas.

“Approximately 30% of the Australian population live outside major cities and face significantly poorer health outcomes compared to those living in urban areas. This is largely due to having greater health risk factors (including higher blood pressure and lower levels of exercise) and poorer access to and use of health services than people living in major cities.”

Therefore, practices in rural areas may need to consider nurses with education and expertise managing some of these risk factors.

2. Arrange support for training and education

Highly trained and motivated nurses often deliver above and beyond expectations.

There are countless examples of practice nurses initiating projects with great success. A great local example is this program run by Parkinson’s disease registered nurses in NSW which improved quality of life and clinical outcomes.

While nurses are required to participate in 20 hours of CPD per year, it’s important to allow time and encourage your nursing team to engage in learning above and beyond their CPD hours.

A few tips to help foster a culture of learning in your clinic:

1. Lead by example. No matter your role within the clinic, all employees and managers benefit from learning and development. Embracing a culture of asking “why” and learning from situations that arise in the day-to-day of your clinic is just one example of how you can do this.

2. Allocate a specific budget for training and development of employees. And stick to it.

3. Allocate specific time for training. No matter how busy your clinic is, providing a designated time for learning will ultimately benefit the organisation. Employees can use this time to up-skill and bring new knowledge back to the practice.

4. Seek to understand each employee’s personal and professional goals, and define individualised training plans to help them achieve them. Consider developing a Personal Development Plan (PDP) for each nurse and include SMART goals.

5. Consider a mentoring program for your employees. Depending on the size of your practice, mentors can be found within your clinic or your team may like to consider external mentors.

3. Foster collaborative working relationships

A medical clinic should run efficiently and effectively with the distinct skill sets of nurses, GPs and support staff complimenting each other. However, when relationships between these professionals become strained it can have an adverse effect across the entire practice.

Conflict in the workplace leads to stress, burnout, absenteeism and employee turnover. Moreover, patients suffer when nurses and other healthcare professions can’t communicate effectively. This in turn costs you time and money (from covering the additional workload to hiring, onboarding and training a replacement hire).

Respect, openness and trust are critical in keeping your practice running smoothly.

How? Here are a few of our favourite tips:

1. Develop and communicate your clinic mission, vision and values. Better yet, involve everyone at the clinic in developing or improving these statements, ultimately uniting them in a shared vision.

2. Set company, team and individual goals. Make sure goals at all levels have a consistent objective geared towards achieving the company's mission.

3. Adopt an open door policy and encourage open conversations and feedback between managers and colleagues. Ensure you are seeking and implementing feedback regularly.

4. Get to know one another. Encourage team members from all departments to sit together during breaks, and participate in social activities inside and outside of the clinic.

5. Conduct an employee satisfaction survey. Giving people a chance to provide feedback anonymously can sometimes uncover more information about the relationships and conditions within your clinic.

4. Encourage autonomy over nursing practice

A nurse operating at the top of his or her skill set is a powerful tool. Yet advanced nurses often feel restricted by inflexible organisational hierarchies.

It is important that GPs and clinic owners give nurses an appropriate level of autonomy. This empowers nurses to control their own work and make independent decisions within their areas of competence. Studies show that nurses that are given freedom to work to their strengths have higher job satisfaction and lead innovation in areas of interest.

As a clinic owner or GP, the steps outlined in sections 2 and 3 should help prepare your nurse team for this level of autonomy and set them (and your business) up for success.

Additionally, having robust operating procedures and effective use of information technology, for example, an effective patient recall system, means nurses can focus on providing excellent specialist care, instead of being demotivated by time-consuming admin work.

A final word...

Australian healthcare is a small world. When word gets out that your clinic supports nurses and fosters a collaborative team environment, you’ll attract a high-quality workforce, not to mention a loyal patient base that continues to grow.

If you’re currently increasing your clinic workforce or are thinking about looking for a clinic who can support you with a great nursing team, please get in touch with Ensure Health Recruitment to find out how we can help. Contact us now for a bespoke solution.

How happy are you working in your current GP clinic? Take our happiness health check assessment here.

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