Opinion

The big question: do you see a positive future for specialist community public health nurses (SCPHNs)?

03 October 2018

Kathryn Waldegrave and Lisa Webster discuss whether or not they see a positive future for specialist community public health nurses (SCPHNs).

Kathryn Waldegrave

RN, SCPHN (HV), lecturer in adult nursing at the University of Leeds, and Queen’s Nurse

Yes! As a nursing lecturer and Queen’s Nurse, there is nothing better than hearing undergraduate student nurses returning from placement talking about how they have been inspired by the variety of roles available to them in the community – many are now asking about opportunities to undertake the SCPHN course as a future career path.

As SCPHN practitioners, our valuable and varied skill-set enables us to demonstrate our adaptability in meeting the ever-changing complex health needs of the wider population – students seeing this in practice are given the confidence that this is where they really can ‘make a difference’.

Our undergraduate students are learning how the older population are more likely to be able to remain in their own homes because of the care we provide in the community. They may have seen how early intervention works in practice for families who are struggling with the challenges of having a new baby, and are realising that promoting health in schools has long-term benefits.

Students tell me they see us as leaders and role models. As innovative practitioners, we inspire them; in using our skills and knowledge to improve health for all, we motivate them.

Harnessing this enthusiasm and promoting the role of the SCPHNs really will make a very bright and positive future for the role.


Lisa Webster

Senior school nurse, specialist practitioner, at Wirral Community NHS Foundation Trust, and Queen’s Nurse

I am trying to remain hopeful for the future of SCPHNs as I feel very positive about their capabilities given the opportunity. SCPHNs view public health in a totally holistic way, and they understand how communities and agencies can work together to improve health and wellbeing and reduce inequalities.

Given the opportunity, SCPHNs can make a real difference to individuals, communities and the health of the wider population. As an SCPHN (school nursing) myself, I have seen how taking a more public health perspective can make a difference and enable nurses to think outside the box.

SCPHNs are also ideally placed for 0 to 19 services, enabling a smooth transition from health visitors to school nurses. This could be enhanced further if SCPHNs were dually trained in health visiting and school nursing, which some areas are looking into. This would be very positive for continuity of care and make the 0 to 19 service truly seamless.

However, I am worried that some NHS trusts are not funding students this year (or last) for the school nurse or health visitor degree, which is short-sighted regarding the future, and will prevent staff development and staff retention. Trusts need to invest in their staff and encourage staff development in order for the NHS as a whole to keep moving forward. SCPHNs are an essential part of this process, and I feel investment in school nursing is vital. With more of us, we could do so much more!

Image credit | iStock

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