Practice nurses in Australia work within the community, in large and small healthcare centres, and provide nursing care and administer treatment and health education to a variety of patients. The role of the general practice nurse depends on the type of patients they see and the background in which they work, and typically a general practice nurse is required to work in both a clinical and managerial capacity. This means these nurses must work collaboratively with others, both within the practice and in the broader community.

If you are a general practice nurse, you will probably work in a GP surgery as part of the primary healthcare team, and work alongside doctors, pharmacists, therapists and dietitians to take care of the patient. In a hospital or a larger practice, you may be required to share duties and responsibilities with other practice nurses. Smaller practices may require that you undertake several additional responsibilities also. This could create unwarranted pressure to perform beyond the scope of your duties.

Today, practice nurses find employment in nearly 60% of Australia’s general healthcare practices, and the Australian Government is promoting the expansion of practice nursing so that the shortages in the numbers of nursing resources are reduced. Practice nursing has found acceptance as a recognised practice in the primary healthcare sector. Practice nurses are known to reduce a GP’s workload, and provide remote citizens with access to dependable healthcare.

However, there are many nursing issues involving practice nursing in the country and it is often felt that Australian practice nursing lacks an education framework that seeks to advance nurses’ skills and knowledge. As a result, many practice nurses do not further their nursing education and keep up with professional development mandates in the country. This has direct repercussions on the quality of practice nursing, and affects the patient outcomes to a great deal. Unless there are mandates in place, the sustainability of the practice-nursing sector is in question.

Practice nurses must mandatorily undertake continuing professional development to stay updated with latest advancements in their field. A career framework needs to be chalked out in order to attract those professionals who are seeking an alternative to hospital careers. By setting in place an evidence-based approach to policy development in the field of practice nursing, the contribution of these nurses can be maximised and the Government can address the growing deficits in the nursing workforce in the country.

It is believed that future health care will be more focussed on the monitoring and prevention of chronic diseases, and the care of older patients. The increasing complexity of the care required means that general practice also needs to evolve to cope with the needs of tomorrow. This means that the Government must make more strategic use of the present resources, and must explore the innovative use of practice nurses, reducing the barriers in their career advancement and helping them to make a more significant contribution to improved patient care.

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