Nurse Practitioners: A capable and collaborative solution to health care


26th July 2018
In the recent weeks there has been plenty of dialogue about Nurse Practitioners (NP) in Australia and questions have been asked of the Australian College of Nurse Practitioners (ACNP) in relation to the
In the recent weeks there has been plenty of dialogue about Nurse Practitioners (NP) in Australia and questions have been asked of the Australian College of Nurse Practitioners (ACNP) in relation to the mandatory education level required to become an endorsed NP, what the scope of practice for an NP is and what value NPs can add to the healthcare system in both rural and metropolitan settings, particularly in relation to the bill brought before the NSW parliament by the Hon Brad Hazzard to restrict the prescribing of some nurse practitioners. 

Nurse Practitioners are the most senior clinical nurses in our health care system.  NPs are highly qualified having completed their nursing degree to become a Registered Nurse (RN) they must also fulfil at least 6 years practical experience, with the equivalent of three years’ (5,000 hours) full-time experience in the advanced clinical nursing practice level, within the past six years, from the date when the complete application seeking endorsement as a nurse practitioner is received by the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia (NMBA).  In fact, NPs have successfully practised in Australian now for over 15 years. 

NPs provide excellent care in all states and territories in Australia and NPs work as key members of the health care team.  NPs collaborate with other nurses and healthcare professionals including GPs, medical and surgical specialists, physiotherapists, dieticians, occupational therapists, social workers, and many others. Through their training and expertise NPs are also able to autonomously perform advanced physical assessment, order diagnostic tests, interpret the results of these tests, initiate referrals to relevant healthcare providers, and prescribe appropriate medications and other therapies as needed. The expanded role of the NP is clearly defined by the scope or specialty area in which the NP practices.

“The desire to collaborate is just one of the great qualities that Nurse Practitioners continually demonstrate.  NPs always aspire to deliver the best possible outcome for their patients and if this means that they can collaborate with relevant healthcare providers, then they will choose to do so.  The understanding that a bill has been put forward to restrict the practice of Nurse Practitioners without any consultation with the ACNP is not in the spirit of collaboration.  To achieve the best possible outcome of care an opportunity for Nurse Practitioners to collaborate on this very important change is surely warranted.  

The Australian College of Nurse Practitioners supports Nurse Practitioners across all health sectors of Australia.  We support Nurse Practitioners to prescribe within their “scope of practice” in line with TGA guidelines.  The College does not believe any additional restrictions to Nurse Practitioners prescribing rights are required.  It is crucial that some time and consideration is taken on this important issue and that all relevant parties have the opportunity to collaborate to achieve the best possible outcome. I call on the Hon Brad Hazzard to engage with the ACNP on this issue” said Matthew Monaghan, Chief Executive Officer, Australian College of Nurse Practitioners (ACNP).  

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