Australian Health Review Australian Health Review Society
Journal of the Australian Healthcare & Hospitals Association
RESEARCH ARTICLE

Advancing general practice nursing in Australia: roles and responsibilities of primary healthcare organisations

Riki Lane A F , Elizabeth Halcomb B , Lisa McKenna C , Nicholas Zwar D , Lucio Naccarella E , Gawaine Powell Davies D and Grant Russell A

A Southern Academic Primary Care Research Unit and School of Primary Health Care, Monash University, Building 1, 270 Ferntree Gully Road, Notting Hill, Vic. 3168, Australia. Email: grant.russell@monash.edu

B School of Nursing, University of Wollongong, Building 41, Northfields Avenue, Wollongong, NSW 2522, Australia. Email: ehalcomb@uow.edu.au

C School of Nursing and Midwifery, Monash University, Building 13C, Clayton, Vic. 3800, Australia. Email: lisa.mckenna@monash.edu

D Centre for Primary Health Care and Equity and School of Public Health and Community Medicine, Level 3, AGSM Building, University of New South Wales, Sydney, NSW 2052, Australia. Email: n.zwar@unsw.edu.au; g.powell-davies@unsw.edu.au

E Health Systems and Workforce Unit, Melbourne School of Population and Global Health, Centre for Health Policy, The University of Melbourne, 207 Bouverie Street, Carlton, Vic. 3053, Australia. Email: l.naccarella@unimelb.edu.au

F Corresponding author. Email: riki.lane@monash.edu

Australian Health Review - http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/AH15239
Submitted: 19 December 2015  Accepted: 29 February 2016   Published online: 21 April 2016

Abstract

Objectives Given increased numbers and enhanced responsibilities of Australian general practice nurses, we aimed to delineate appropriate roles for primary health care organisations (PHCOs) to support this workforce.

Methods A two-round online Delphi consensus process was undertaken between January and June 2012, informed by literature review and key informant interviews. Participants were purposively selected and included decision makers from government and professional organisations, educators, researchers and clinicians from five Australian states and territories

Results Of 56 invited respondents, 35 (62%) and 31 (55%) responded to the first and second invitation respectively. Participants reached consensus on five key roles for PHCOs in optimising nursing in general practice: (1) matching workforce size and skills to population needs; (2) facilitating leadership opportunities; (3) providing education and educational access; (4) facilitating integration of general practice with other primary care services to support interdisciplinary care; and (5) promoting advanced nursing roles. National concerns, such as limited opportunities for postgraduate education and career progression, were deemed best addressed by national nursing organisations, universities and peak bodies.

Conclusions Advancement of nursing in general practice requires system-level support from a range of organisations. PHCOs play a significant role in education and leadership development for nurses and linking national nursing organisations with general practices.

What is known about the topic? The role of nurses in Australian general practice has grown in the last decade, yet they face limited career pathways and opportunities for career advancement. Some nations have forged interprofessional primary care teams that use nurses’ skills to the full extent of their scope of practice. PHCOs have played important roles in the development of general practice nursing in Australia and internationally.

What does this paper add? This study delineates organisational support roles for PHCOs in strengthening nurses’ roles and career development in Australian general practice.

What are the implications for practitioners? Effective implementation of appropriate responsibilities by PHCOs can assist development of the primary care nursing workforce.


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