Digital transformation in general practice nursing during COVID-19
Ann Gregory explains how practice nurses have adapted to providing digital services during the COVID-19 pandemic
As we were all preparing for 2020—the Year of the Nurse and Midwife—did we ever think we would be as much in the spotlight as we find ourselves at the moment?
It is a testament to the resilience and professionalism of the practice nurse that we have coped and adapted during this exceptional situation.
Use of digital technology in our work environment has been dramatic in its uptake: video consultations; online chronic disease questionnaires; learning how to carry out long term condition reviews with patients who have never had to be cared for in this virtual way—coming so far so very quickly. We have learnt remotely, without the training and support usually received on a face-to-face basis.
In my practice, we proactively contacted patients by phone, SMS and letter. Not only those in shielding groups but also those with a potential to be isolated, anxious or finding the situation difficult to cope with. We used an interpreter for non-English speakers. The aim was to offer advice, signpost to local services or NHS Volunteers, and encourage patients to try going online and support them in doing this. These targeted contacts enabled the practice to increase online users by 980% in the first few weeks of COVID, a considerable achievement in a practice where 40% of consultations require an interpreter. Worryingly though, a proportion of patients were unaware the surgery was still open, and many had a poor understanding of COVID-19 and the advice the government briefed the population on every day.
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