Advanced clinical practitioners (ACPs)
What is the role of an Advanced Practitioner?
Advanced clinical practitioners (ACPs) come from a range of professional backgrounds including nursing, pharmacy, and allied health professions. They are healthcare professionals educated to Master’s level who have developed the skills and knowledge to allow them to take on expanded roles and scope of practice caring for patients. ACPs practice with autonomy and expertise to ensure the best possible outcomes for patients across a variety of settings.
ACPs are deployed across all healthcare settings and work at a level of advanced clinical practice that pulls together the four ACP pillars; clinical practice, leadership and management, education and research.
What qualifications and experience do I need?
To become an Advanced Clinical Practitioner you will first need to undergo a 3 year training programme. Suitability for this training programme is assessed locally, and commonly requires degree level education alongside evidence of extensive post-registration professional development. You must be a registered healthcare professional with 5 years’ experience post qualification.
Successful completion of a Masters in Advanced Clinical Practice; including 3 years of ACP training, becoming an Independent non-medical prescriber and achieving sufficient competence in clinical practice will allow you to practice as an ACP.
Achieving the role of ACP is the first step in your advanced practice journey. The scope of roles and responsibilities is ever evolving, with ACPs developing services and pushing the boundaries of healthcare. Through additional training, ACPs can practice advanced skills such as endoscopy, surgery, airway management and emergency life-saving procedures. ACPs can lead teams managing medical emergencies and major trauma, teach advanced skills and healthcare theory to professionals from all healthcare backgrounds, perform and interpret advanced diagnostics, and constantly drive positive change.
Advanced Clinical Practice allows the opportunity to develop increasing skills and expertise to safely enhance the scope of a practitioner’s ability to help those in need.
Senior roles exist for those wanting to take on additional leadership responsibilities, with progression to roles such as Departmental Lead ACP, Corporate Lead ACP and Consultant Practitioners.
Pay and benefits
Trainee ACP roles start at Agenda for Change Band 7, progressing to Band 8a on completion of the prerequisites. Lead roles exist nationally up to Band 9 for those wishing to pursue routes with greater focus on leadership, education and/or research.
Core Professional Registration with HCPC/NMC/GPhC
My Story: Loveday Fethney
I am Loveday Fethney and I have worked at UHP for 10 years.
How I got into this role
I started nursing when I left school at 18 and completed my RGN training in Buckinghamshire. After consolidating my training for a couple of years, I went to Canada and worked in General Medicine in Toronto.
On returning to the UK, I specialised in Coronary Care and completed my CCU course, working in London and Somerset.
I had an opportunity to work in the Private Sector for a company who, in partnership with medical insurance, sent me all over the world to repatriate people who had become ill whilst abroad. This honed my assessment, communication and organisational skills.
Following a bit of time working for drug companies, auditing patient care and providing resources and education to medical staff, I stopped working to have a family. I then spent time working in Primary Schools, initially as a teaching assistant which led me to study for my teaching degree.
I returned to the NHS in 2011, undertaking my Return to Practice course at Plymouth university when I moved to the area. This re-inspired me with nursing and I grabbed the opportunity to study and develop my skills which had become rather out-dated during my time away from the NHS.
I worked on Mayflower for 6 months when I returned to the profession – a fabulous place to work. I learned so much from patients and staff alike.
But my first love was cardiac, so I went to Torrington ICU. I then discovered the Acute Care Team – something that had not been around in my previous nursing career, way back in the day when nurses had very few extended skills. I spent over 4 years working for the ACT, all the time doing extra study and courses to improve my clinical skills.
I wanted to progress, but at the time, there was no opportunity for nurses to go above a band 6 unless they went into management. I didn’t want this path and I liked the patient contact and the clinical care.
ANPs were being talked about, but the training in Derriford was not widely known about, so with the support of colleagues, I was granted funding to begin the 3 year training programme. It soon became apparent that this was not going to be easy to achieve as there was no-one in the team with the qualification who could mentor me. So I joined the Acute Medical team and was given the opportunity to train for the now ACP MSc while working in the role that I would take on once qualified.
My role at UHP
I work alongside the Junior Drs in AAU and MAU, generally under the supervision of the Medical Consultant of the day.
On AAU, we have patients who are referred from GPs and ED and who are returning for ongoing management or treatment. The ethos of the unit is admission avoidance and SDEC (Same Day Emergency Care) which allows us to send patients for tests on the day of presentation with the aim of reaching a diagnosis and commencing treatment all without the need for admission.
I have a responsibility to clerk all my patients, consider their presentation, symptoms, ongoing concerns and reach a management plan. The results are discussed with the consultant who may add other investigations. We then discuss the treatment plan with the patient. I prescribe (Non-medical prescribing was part of my MSc), any medications required, make outpatient referrals, write discharge letters and arrange any follow-up that they may need.
The work on MAU is similar, but there is the added consideration for the ongoing care of patients who are not suitable for management as outpatients, liaison with Drs and members of the MDT who are not acute medics, deeper enquiry into signs and symptoms and discussion regarding appropriate management pathways.
There is always an opportunity to teach and educate other members of staff either on an ad-hoc basis or as part of a more formalised programme. I enjoy these sessions as I can reinforce my own knowledge as well as identify my own knowledge gaps.
The best bits and the challenges
There is a constant variety of work, colleagues, patients and relatives.
The challenges are different every day, and range from admin and organisational issues to adjusting my approach depending on the individual patient, test results and desired outcome.
I enjoy collecting all the information and coming up with potential diagnoses or reasons for these and then reaching a mutually beneficial, realistic and appropriate management plan.
Life outside of work
I learnt to dive a few years ago (SCUBA, not high-board)! My holidays involve this whenever possible. I love to swim, sail and paddle-board when I get the chance. I have a Labrador called George who loves to explore locally with me..
My top tips to being successful
My career plan for now is to consolidate what I have learned during my course. I love working in Acute Medicine and am now using my time to concentrate on developing my clinical skills and knowledge rather than the academic ones.
Top tips would be to undertake the ACP training if you enjoy the clinical side of your work. However, don’t be too keen to complete this early in your career. Experience is something that cannot be taught, but is invaluable for this role and will certainly make the transition from nurse or allied health professional to ACP much easier.