Alex Munro is Clinical Director and co-founder of Hallam Medical, a nursing agency that supplies a bank of nursing staff and clinical advisors to primary care and unscheduled care providers. A nurse practitioner by background, Alex took part in the NMC revalidation pilot, along with many of Hallam Medical’s bank staff. Here he talks about his experiences.
“It’s natural for any member of the nursing team to feel nervous about NMC revalidation. However, there is a heightened sense of anxiety amongst agency staff because often they do not work within the large NHS structure, or don’t have the opportunity to discuss their practice in one-to-ones with their line manager.
"In reality, it is no more difficult for an agency nurse to revalidate than it is for a nurse working in the NHS. There is a wealth of support out there, and it’s about understanding the new process well in advance of your revalidation date.
"Last year Hallam Medical took part in the NMC’s revalidation pilot, along with 18 other health care organisations from across the UK. I also revalidated, which helped me to understand what was being asked of our nurses, most of whom are nurse practitioners working at an advanced level of practice. Before the pilot began, we discussed the process openly with staff and ensured that everyone felt supported and able to ask questions."
"One particular area of concern was asking for five pieces of feedback from patients and colleagues, which was not previously a requirement of PREP. This feedback can be either verbal or written. The written reflection on this feedback does not need to be an academic essay, rather a short piece to show what you are learning, the impact of this on your practice and how you think you can improve.
"Getting feedback is perceived to be an uncomfortable process, so we encouraged our nurses to hand out simple feedback forms to patients or their families which have proven incredibly popular. It’s natural to think ‘I couldn’t possibly ask the family of an oncology patient for feedback’, but in reality you need to know if there are areas of your presentation, nursing skills, communication or hygiene, for example, that you can improve. Feedback can be from any point over the three years up to your revalidation date, so there are plenty of opportunities to ask. Feedback can point out areas for improvement and development, but can also be positive, for example many patients send thank-you cards after their treatment. All feedback is great as long as you can reflect and it helps to improve your practice."
Continuing professional development
"As an agency nurse it may feel a little trickier to identify appropriate CPD, especially the 20 hours of participatory learning. However there are numerous free conferences available that deliver updates, teaching sessions and the opportunity to speak to industry experts. Some great examples of organisations that provide good quality free-to-attend events are RCN, and the Journal of Community Nursing, along with many others. Agency nurses should attend training events as much as possible to ensure they continue to stay up to date.
"Another way agency nurses can do this is by continuing to study university modules, for example; prescribing, advanced consultation skills, and practice nursing courses to name but a few. Similarly I am encouraging our nurses to sign up for free updates from publications, join forums and even take part in Twitter chats – good examples of online Twitter communities for nursing are @NurChat and @WeNurses. All of these count can count as part of your CPD and by keeping a record of any self-learning and articles read, your CPD hours will soon build-up.
"I was surprised at how much free education is actually available, and whether you are agency or not, we should make the most of this.
"It’s always important to remember that even as an agency nurse you are part of the nursing team, and the relationships you build with colleagues will enable you to have a good quality reflective discussion as part of revalidation. Staff who have already started or even completed their revalidation already have a wealth of experience, and it is your responsibility to seek out answers to the questions you have."
"At Hallam Medical, we quickly recognised that some agency staff were worried about finding someone to hold a reflective discussion with, and an appropriate confirmer – someone to review whether a nurse or midwife has met the requirements of revalidation.
"For agency staff who feel isolated and unable to identify an appropriate person, professional networks, such as RCN Forums are a great to meet other registrants. The majority of Healthcare Providers recognise the important role agency staff have within their workforce and provide them with the support they need.
"Going through revalidation, I have not found many agency nurses that are struggling with finding a confirmer. However if any agency staff are struggling to find a confirmer or an appropriate individual to have the reflective discussion with, I would suggest in the first instance they contact their agency for support.
"But remember, as nursing staff, it’s our own responsibility to find an appropriate person who can review our portfolio and confirm to the NMC that we have completed all the revalidation requirements."
"Similarly, indemnity cover is a legal requirement for all nurses and midwives and also an important part of the revalidation process. If you are unsure about personal cover, contact the NMC, a trade union such as the Royal College of Nursing, or ask your employer."
Support for agency staff
"On rare occasions, agency staff may encounter resistance from employers to revalidation, but from my experience during the pilot, the majority of Trusts and organisations embrace agency staff as their own and realise they have a responsibility to support all employees through the process.
"Life as an agency nurse is unique, and it’s not uncommon to feel isolated at times. But this feeling should not extend to revalidation. Where this is the case, it’s up to employers to provide support and encouragement to staff. At Hallam Medical we have been running our own sessions for staff in small groups, which includes the opportunity to ask questions. It’s incredibly rewarding when, as the session closes, you hear that the concerns of staff have been addressed. Staff can also seek out opportunities to build professional networks.
"More widely, there is a plethora of support available for all staff, including opportunities to attend free courses on revalidation across the UK. These courses won’t stop on 1 April, but will continue until revalidation is the natural thing for all nurses and midwives.
"It is estimated that 16,000 people will revalidate in April 2016 and a significant percentage of this will be agency nurses working across the UK, but even if your revalidation isn’t for a while yet, I would urge you to be prepared: sign up to NMC Online, become familiar with the NMC Code and build up your portfolio of evidence."