Practice Nurse and Ward Nurse – What’s The Difference?

Like many professions, there are many different options available to you when it comes to nursing. Forming the largest part of the NHS workforce, it’s safe to say that many of the health services offered by the NHS wouldn’t be available without nurses. Once you’ve qualified in your Royal College of Nursing degree, you’ll then be able to choose which career path you’d like to take. This article is going to focus on the difference between a practice nurse and a ward nurse, to help you get an idea of what’s involved in each role to help you decide which path is the most appropriate for you.

General practice nurse

A general practice nurse is based in general practice and is an important part of this service. As an alternative to working in a hospital, being a general practice nurse comes with a range of duties and responsibilities, working alongside the rest of the primary healthcare team that work in surgeries and GP practices. Smaller practices might have one or two practice nurses working for them with set responsibilities, while larger practices might have a team of nurses with shared duties.

Practice nurses will manage their own patient appointments, taking on many of the responsibilities that would otherwise fall to doctors in smaller surgeries. Some of these duties include

  • Sexual health services including family planning and cervical smears
  • Taking blood samples
  • Dressing and managing wounds
  • Providing travel health advice and administering vaccinations
  • Screening services
  • Child vaccinations
  • Quit smoking services

In order to work as a practice nurse, you will need to have the right nursing qualification and be registered. There may be additional training required after being appointed, and continued training as you progress in your career.

Working as a practice nurse enables you to benefit from more routine hours, working during practice hours on a full-time or part-time basis. There is also the opportunity to work in out of hours practices.

Unlike working in a hospital, working as a practice nurse may mean that you work with patients suffering from long-term conditions and dealing with familiar faces within the community.

Ward nurse

Ward nurses are based in hospitals, covering a particular floor or ward within a department of the hospital. These departments can include A&E, cardiology, paediatrics, maternity, intensive care and many others. Working in a hospital environment, you’ll be part of a large team working alongside staff across the hospital.

You’ll be working with a variety of patients, offering them care and carrying out duties such as:

  • Observing patients and monitoring progress
  • Co-ordinating healthcare plans with doctors and other healthcare staff
  • Keeping medical histories up to date
  • Maintaining stocks and supplies
  • Administering medication and treating injuries
  • General patient care

To work as a ward nurse, you will also have to have achieved the relevant nursing degree and be registered with the Royal College of Nursing. To work in specialist departments you may need to undergo further training to gain the skills necessary to work in that area.

Working as a ward nurse, you can expect to work various shifts which can require working evenings, nights and weekends. Most nurses work full-time, but there are also opportunities for part-time workers.

Working in a hospital offers a number of challenges, and is often fast-paced. You’ll usually treat short-term patients rather than long-term ones, and you may need to react to emergency situations.

Choosing between a career as a practice nurse and ward nurse

While both working as a practice nurse and a ward nurse revolve around patient care, the nature of the work can vary, as can the working hours and pace of the work. Choosing which area to work in will depend on factors such as your family life, how far you’re willing to travel, etc. Both elements of nursing contain opportunities for career progression, as well as the option to move into other areas of nursing at different points in your career.

At EBPC, we rely on practice nurses to ensure the best quality of care for patients. The hours and role would suit someone looking for a change of pace and new challenges within the healthcare industry.

If you’re interested in working as an out of hours nurse in the East Berkshire area, take a look at our latest vacancies.