I am feeling a touch of shame this morning. A friend asked me what I do. We have known each other for some time but we don’t talk about work really. I was sharing the news about my Winston Churchill Fellowship and the next questions came “so what do you actually do?”. I did my best, taking up as little time as necessary so as not to bore the dinner table but also shining light on the pioneering work being done by AHPs. But despite my monologue the response was “so you’re a nurse trying to be a Doctor”. Oh the shame!
First of all I’d like to say that my friend is very educated and doesn’t work or interact with the healthcare industry so could this be an educated public’s view of Advanced Clinical Practitioners and Advanced Physiotherapists?
This also highlights the view of nurses and their ANP counterparts. Their role seems to be understood and accepted but are they still seen in the shadown of their medic colleagues rather than in their own achievements and qualities. We have inherited a hierarchical healthcare system which was mostly occupied by consultants, junior doctors and nurses until AHPs came along and started occupying the bottom rung.
What can we learn from the nurses battle with public perception in our own route to equal status?
A systematic review in 2017 (Jakimowicz et al.) found that ANPs struggled to negotiate and clarify the scope of their roles in spite of a growing move for more ANPs in primary care. The BMJ published an article 13 years ago called “Nurse-led General Practice” calling for a change in the way we think about primary care and yet ANPs are still struggling with their identity as viewed by colleagues and the public.
I hope that I can learn more about how services, organisations and clinicians have tackled this problem through my Fellowship. Perhaps an accrediting body such as that proposed by HEE (The Academy) which would require advanced practitioners to prove their worth would improve our standing in the public’s eye. In the meantime though what do we call ourselves and how do we explain to our friends over dinner that we don’t massage people’s legs and we’re not trying to be Doctors.