A delegation from the German equivalent of the British Nursing Association visited the UK last week on a fact-finding mission that could pave the way for major changes to the healthcare system in Germany.
A senior leadership team from Northwest Office of the DBfK – the German Association for Nursing – visited the University of Cumbria on Thursday 3 October to learn more about the role of advanced nurse practitioner, a position that does not currently exist in Germany.
The delegration was personally invited by University of Cumbria Honoary Fellow, Professor Jacqui Filkins who, through her position as President of the European Nurse Directors Association, connected DBfK with the Cumbrian university.
Pro Vice Chancellor (Health) Professor Brian Webster Henderson worked with Jacqui and international EU-UK nursing professional link Sabine Torgler to facilitate the day.
Peta Clark, Operational Manager for the Royal College of Nursing, Northern Region (RCN), also attended along with Nick Paterson, project manager and Marie-Therese Massey, professional lead for general practice nursing, who also both delivered sessions.
Brian said: “They are here to learn from us about the advance nurse practitioner (ANP) role.
“In Germany they don’t have this role in nursing and also the training and academic learning routes to become a nurse are different.
“We hope that the board members will be able to go back with a vision of how they can develop the APN role in German and we also hope that today will help establish longer-term links with the German nursing association.”
Advanced practitioners are nurses educated to masters’ level who have the freedom and authority to act, and make autonomous decisions in the assessment, diagnosis and treatment of patients. They can be found working in environments such as in GPs surgeries and out-of-hours clinics.
Burkharat Zieger, CEO of the GNA, said: “We’ve been very impressed by the University of Cumbria and RCN’s collaboration with the aim of coming to the UK to learn more about the importance of the APN role and how it works in the health system here.
“We currently have a pilot APN project in northern Germany and therefore we want to learn about the differences and the challenges of the role before the pilot can be rolled out. It is so important for us to do this and learn how we can incorporate it.
“The role of APN and its part in the education system is also something we want to explore. In Germany to become a nurse it is more vocational rather than academic and so developing APNs would provide continued professional development opportunities for individuals through higher education.”
There are around 1.5m nurses in Germany compared with 690,000* registered nurses in the UK.
Training to become a nurse in Germany remains largely vocational, through apprenticeships, rather than the UK’s established degree-level higher education and registered route.
If Germany chooses to adopt the APN model it represents a move towards continuing professional development which has not been available to German nurses to date.
The RCN’s Peta Clark said: “This is an exciting opportunity and a real coup for the University of Cumbria and ourselves to welcome this professional and influential group here to the north of England and work with both Sabine and Brian.
“We already work closely with the university around pre-registration students and welcome this opportunity to develop additional ways in which the Royal College of Nursing and the university can work together to support both student nurses and nurses progress and develop within their role.
“In addition, we’re delighted that the German nurses association has been able to learn about the RCN and what it offers. We are unique in that RCN is a professional body and a trade union and so this is an opportunity to showcase how it works in those dual roles.”
RCN has around 435K members including nurses, nursing support workers, health practitioners.
The DBfK continued their trip to Cumbria on Fri 4 October, which involved visiting the North Cumbria Integrated Care NHS Foundation Trust and then Penrith Hospital.