Advanced nursing in Cumbria: Katrina Walker

Advanced level nursing roles are helping to develop a more sustainable workforce and improve patient care in Cumbria.

Educated to masters level, advanced practitioners develop a wide range of clinical and leadership skills. The role is still relatively new in the UK but is one of many innovative ways the NHS is using to meet the changing needs of the population.

Katrina Walker, advanced nurse practitioner in the Carlisle community mental health team at Cumbria Partnership NHS Foundation Trust (CPFT), explains more about her role:

I qualified as a nurse in 2009 and spent my first seven years working on an inpatient ward for people with dementia. The role was as much about physical health as mental health and I learned a lot on the ward.

I then moved to the community mental health assessment and recovery team where I was able to use what I had learned to support people in their own homes. Again my nursing covered a holistic approach to both physical and mental health and I developed an interest in the connection between the two.

In 2016 I began my advanced clinical practice training with the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan). It included two study days a week which were either at university or on work placements across CPFT. I spent time prescribing with consultants and developing practical skills in the consultation process which included completing mental and physical health assessments.

The training included a focus on leadership and innovation and as part of this I completed a service development project on improvements to physical health monitoring for patients prescribed Clozapine. As a result of this we have introduced a number of improvements to patient care including regular monitoring of blood pressure, pulse, respirations and temperature as well as screening questions for constipation and smoking status. 

Qualifying this summer was really exciting and it has been great to put what I’ve learned into practice. My new skills have been a real benefit especially to patients with complex needs. I work with others in the team to review patients’ prescriptions and adjust as necessary which frees up consultants’ time and takes the pressure off them. I’m also getting good feedback from patients who are able to have their reviews without the need to see a doctor. For many of our patients a trip to the doctors can be a stressful experience so receiving the care they need in their own home is much better for them.

I’m the first advanced clinical practitioner in the team so it’s exciting to be able to develop the role. I love working in Cumbria and have a great team here. The support during my training has been fantastic and there are so many different learning opportunities. I’ve been encouraged to develop my skills from the start which is something you don’t get everywhere.

More advanced nursing roles are being introduced in Cumbria later this year, including nurse consultants, to modernise the future workforce and continue to improve patient care.