Aim: This study set out to identify the present and future training needs of practice nurses in South West Thames Regional Health Authority and to examine these needs within the nurses' current and changing workloads and social, educational and occupational profiles.
Method: A questionnaire was sent to 899 practice staff identified by family health services authority records whose salaries were in part reimbursed and in whose job title the word nurse appeared. The questionnaire enquired about personal and practice demography, tasks and activities currently undertaken, perceived role development and training requirements, and preferred organization of training.
Results: A total of 620 completed questionnaires were returned (69%). Nurses' work involved treatments, immunizations investigations, administration, first contact with patients, support to the general practitioner and health promotion. The areas of role development selected most commonly by nurses were counselling skills (60%) and health promotion (54%); in terms of training the most popular areas were communication skills (62%) and the theory and practice of health promotion (48%). Fewer than one third of the nurses who were engaged in health checks for elderly people or the provision of diabetes care, asthma care or advice about the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and the acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) held an appropriate qualification.
Conclusion: Practice nurses in the region were engaged in a wide range of activities for which many have had little formal training; the majority wished to develop their role and undertake further training. If practice nurses are to play a key part in the development of primary care services they must be adequately prepared for their clinical and health promotion role.