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North Cumbria University Hospitals NHS Trust - 70 years of the NHS


Home > News > Developing the role of nurse practitioners

Developing the role of nurse practitioners

Posted on Thursday 29th August 2013
Nurse practitioners

Liz Klein, centre, with two nurse practitioners at the Cumberland Infirmary

Staff nurses at North Cumbria University Hospitals are being encouraged to develop their role and train as nurse practitioners, as part of a series of initiatives to improve patient care.

Nurse practitioners have been recruited at the Cumberland Infirmary in Carlisle to lead the ambulatory care service which was launched in June. Ambulatory care is designed to manage a proportion of emergency adult patients safely and efficiently on the same day avoiding admission to a hospital bed. This means that patients who would previously have been admitted as inpatients can now be treated quicker as day cases for things such as pulmonary embolus and shortness of breath.

Lynne Harte is currently undergoing training to become a nurse practitioner, after five years as a staff nurse. For six weeks she has spent three days a week at Wansbeck General Hospital in Ashington, Northumberland, undertaking advanced clinical assessment for nurses, which covers a different topic each week, including anatomy and physiology, how to take a patient’s clinical history and make a diagnosis.

Liz Klein, lead nurse for emergency care at the Cumberland Infirmary, explained: “Lynne already has nursing assessment skills – this training enables her to build on those skills, completing a more structured, in-depth assessment of the patient, before making a diagnosis and formulating a treatment plan. It is an advancement of the nursing role and gives nurses who want to stay in a clinical position a clear pathway of career progression.”

From September Lynne will move on to the Masters level part of the nurse practitioner course, which involves two years of distance learning through the University of Cumbria, followed by a dissertation in the third year. She said: “I had gained lots of skills working on the Emergency Assessment Unit but I always knew I wanted to go on and do further study. The nurse practitioner course has enabled me to take my career a stage further and stretch myself with this new challenge.”

The nurse-led ambulatory care service is based in the Emergency Assessment Unit on Larch A/B ward, part of the integrated emergency floor, which sees nursing and medical staff working together alongside colleagues from primary care. The service is supported by an acute care physician on a daily basis to improve assessment, admission avoidance and increase a rapid turnaround of patients.

Four nurse practitioners have been appointed to work on ambulatory care, which will be open 8am-8pm Monday to Friday initially and then will extend to seven days a week. A further three nurse practitioners have been appointed to the Hospital at Night team.

There has been a nurse practitioner unit at West Cumberland Hospital for some time and this has recently moved to the Emergency Assessment Unit on Patterdale ward. Five new nurse practitioners have recently been recruited, bringing the total to 11.

Joanne Pickering, lead nurse for emergency care at West Cumberland Hospital, said: “The benefit to patients is, whereas junior doctors tend to move on after a short time, nurse practitioners tend to stay with us for a number of years, so the skills they learn are retained within the hospital. And of course it is a great opportunity for nurses to progress their careers.”

More nurse practitioners will be recruited next year. To find out more about the role, visit