What is a Nurse Practitioner?

The Nurse Practitioner role was endorsed in Australia in 2000 to increase access to health services for all Australians.  Nurse Practitioner scope of practice is defined by the Commonwealth, State and Territory regulations and legislation and the Nurse Practitioners employer. Nurse Practitioners are Registered Nurses who have completed a Masters degree (or equivalent) in their area of specialty, including advanced health assessment and diagnostic reasoning and pharmacology modules. 

Nurse Practitioners are educated and authorised to practice autonomously and collaboratively in a multidisciplinary team. The role is grounded in advance practice nursing theory, values and knowledge and provides innovative and flexible health care that complements other health care professionals. This enables Nurse Practitioners to work in an advanced and extended role including ordering diagnostic tests and prescribing medicines within their scope of practice. There are now over 1800 Nurse Practitioner in Australia and they are an integral part of the health care system. 


Nurse Practitioners providing BBV and STI care

Nurse Practitioners expanded scope of practice address critical barriers to healthcare in settings where access to medical practitioners and other care is limited.  Many Nurse Practitioners are providing BBV and STI care in both primary and tertiary settings in metropolitan, regional, rural, remote and very remote Australia, for hard-to-reach populations and those who may be disengaged from care. These groups can include Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, vulnerable populations such as street-based people who inject drugs and people experiencing homelessness.  Nurse Practitioners have been safely and effectively prescribing medicines in Australia since 2010, including medicines to prevent HIV and treat hepatitis C.

There are still legislative and procedural barriers to overcome for Nurse Practitioners to provide the level of care they want to and are trained to provide to their patients affected by BBV and STI.  Continued advocacy by ASHM, the Australian College of Nurse Practitioners, other nursing associations and state governments ensures that the role of Nurse Practitioner will only expand to improve patient wellbeing and health outcomes.


Twenty Years of Nurse Practitioners in Australia

Leanne Boase, Nurse Practitioner and President of the Australian College of Nurse Practitioners (ACNP) shares her thoughts on celebrating twenty years of Nurse Practitioners in Australia.

Leading into 2020, the World Health Organisation Year of the Nurse and Midwife, Nurse Practitioners will be celebrating 20 years of the role in Australia, with the first Nurse Practitioners authorised on 12th November 2000.  We celebrate Nurse Practitioner Day on this day every year, and plan celebrations and events across the country to promote the work we do throughout the entire week. Reflecting on our continual need to promote our role, and in many cases, repeatedly justify our existence, leads me to feel quite perplexed.  

Nurse Practitioners work across Australia in both generalist and specialist roles.  In fact, many of us are generalists, and also have a specialty, just like many other health professionals.  We work in rural, remote and metropolitan areas, in all sectors, including primary care. Nurse Practitioners have an enormously positive impact on patient outcomes, especially where patients have multiple health concerns, require extensive health education, or need care co-ordination. Nurse Practitioners work well in any team, as they are, and always will be nurses, with the patient at the centre of their focus.  All patients can benefit from patient centred care, and a collaborative approach.  Nurse Practitioners can be the lead clinician in primary care, and do not require a referral for their services, this is vitally important, and essential in improving access to care.

Consider the Nurse Practitioner in a rural town who provides primary care to the community, and also specialises in women’s and sexual health, or the Nurse Practitioner who travels every month to remote communities in Australia, the Nurse Practitioner regularly visiting six residential aged care facilities, or the Nurse Practitioner like me, who deals with complex family health needs in the suburbs, supporting parents and children living with chronic diseases and reducing hospital admissions.  Each Nurse Practitioner has such a positive impact, and we love what we do.

We have come a long way in 20 years, but still have a way to go.  There is a wide body of evidence to support our high quality and affordable patient outcomes.  The aim for 2020, the year of the Nurse and Midwife, and the 20th year of Nurse Practitioners in Australia, is celebration, rather than justification.  We will also be celebrating the 2000th Nurse Practitioner! To warm up, and start getting to know us better, please join us in celebrating our 19th year during Nurse Practitioner Week 2019, 9-15th December, you can find resources and ideas at https://www.acnp.org.au


Have your say on Nurse Practitioner prescribing in Victoria!

The Victorian Department of Health is currently conducting a review of NP prescribing rights acknowledging that the needs of the community are no longer met by the current NP prescribing arrangements. The proposed general authorisation change will enable Victorian Nurse Practitioner to supply and prescribe medicines to their full scope of practice. The consultation process is open until Monday 16 December 2019. Please visit https://engage.vic.gov.au/victorian-nurse-practitioner-prescribing to contribute your thoughts to the consultation.