Life on the frontline: what it’s like to be a newly qualified GP nurse during COVID-19

Claire Carmichael, who graduated from Birmingham City University

Claire Carmichael, who graduated from Birmingham City University, is a newly qualified nurse working in the community as a GP nurse. In recognition of healthcare professionals around the world on World Health Day (7 April), Claire shares what it’s like to be a frontline nurse during the coronavirus outbreak…

As a newly qualified nurse (NQN) I was excited to be going into my dream job as a GP Nurse. My year 2020 started amazingly and I couldn’t have been happier – and I’m still happy, don’t worry! However, it’s now turned into a time of uncertainty. That’s not just for me, I think I can safely say I speak for the whole nation of healthcare professionals and ‘keyworkers’ right now out there. We are all risking our own lives and our families’ lives (or health) to care for others.

Now, I am a GP nurse in the middle of this pandemic. We have cut our clinics right down and only seeing a list of ‘urgent’ appointments only, which may differ from those working in the acute sector. Our urgent classes things such as; wound management, leg ulcers, compression bandaging (as patients are at risk of infection and sepsis never mind COVID-19), then we have our baby immunisations, urgent ‘at risk’ smears tests, ECG’s for chest pain, blood tests for things such as medication monitoring. All other services have been moved to telephone and video consultations where possible and only seen if absolutely needed in clinic to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19.

I was due to go on my fundamentals of Primary Care course in May, which has now been put on hold until September sadly. For me, my clinics have reduced massively - I only have around 3 patients a day now in a 10 hour shift.

But the good news is; I have more time to see each person and make sure they are ok and have the right support during this tough time. There’s plenty of time for me to stock up all the rooms and do a thorough clean down as well. I am now ringing patients and making sure they are ok, that they have enough support and giving out telephones numbers of helplines if needed. We are all being reduced greatly at the minute, as management want us well rested and well ready for when this virus ‘peaks’ because that’s when we will be called to help much more; things such as home visits will be put into place for those patients who can’t get into hospital.

We need to be the ones helping those patients at that time. I’ve seen many comments from ward nurses on social media recently saying: ‘why can’t you get the community GP nurses in to the wards!?’ But then who will look after the patients who can’t get in to hospital?

Those patients who have been told; ‘sorry we are prioritising someone else over you right now as they have more chance of survival’. Sorry that is so blunt but that is exactly what is happening. There needs to be A LOT of nurses out in the community for those patients too and this is what my role will eventually involve.

One of my friends said recently ‘Covid Compassion is needed the most right now, not just your clinical nursing skills’ and they were right.

There needs to be far more kindness and compassion at times like these and I’m glad to be doing my bit for our patients right now. It is so lovely to see people coming together right now out there. I have seen people take to social media and share their stories of how they have been helped by someone or they have helped their neighbours out.

I can’t explain the feeling this brought, not only to me but I imagine everyone out there right now doing their bit to help in this crisis and I imagine it was a lovely motivation booster for many people out there struggling right now.

It’s times like this when communities really come together and share their kindness for one another, it’s beautiful to see. My clap and cheer didn’t go out to just healthcare staff but to those we don’t hear about in the news; police, firefighters, military, supermarket and shop workers, transport staff, carers, support workers, and many, many, more. A huge thank you to everyone out there, whatever your role in this – thank you! Keep being amazing, keep going – you’ve got this!