Seeing the GP: Advice and tips for young people

When to see a nurse instead of the GP

What is a practice nurse?
Nurses play an important role in providing care in general practice. General practice nurses are nurses that work in GP surgeries. ‘Practice nurses’, as they’re called, are qualified and registered nurses.
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What does a practice nurse do?
Practice nurses can help with lots of different health problems. Often they also run clinics for long-term health problems such as asthma or diabetes. Some nurses are nurse practitioners – this means that they have additional training and skills. Some nurses can prescribe medication and are called nurse independent prescribers. Nurses may run clinics for minor problems (such as cuts and ingrown toenails), and most practice nurses carry out cervical screening (smear tests).

Practice nurses can help patients of all ages in many ways including:

•    consultations (appointments) in the surgery or health centre
•    health checks when people register with a new surgery
•    diagnosing and treating minor illnesses
•    recording ECGs (heart traces)
•    taking blood samples, swabs, specimens, pulses, temperatures and blood pressures
•    giving vaccinations (injections), and running travel clinics
•    providing advice about contraception, fitting contraceptive devices (e.g. the coil), and pregnancy tests
•    sexual health services and cervical screening (smear tests)
•    treating wounds (including when people have self-harmed); applying and removing dressings
•    providing emergency first aid/treatment
•    giving advice, education and information about health problems, stopping smoking and losing weight
•    ear syringing
•    liaising (working with) with other health professionals, practice nurses, GPs and/or hospitals
•    writing records and keeping patients notes up-to-date

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