What is Nurse Practitioner?

In Australia, the title of Nurse Practitioner is protected and is the only advanced nursing practice (ANP). The title protection works to safeguard public safety, ensuring those who use the title have achieved the required education and experience. The title of Nurse Practitioner legally enables independent and autonomous practice where this may be necessary, within the scope of Nurse Practitioner practice.

Advanced nursing practice (APN) is defined by the Australian Health Practitioner Register as a continuum of practice at a more senior level than a novice.

In Australia, Nurse Practitioners are authorised to assess, diagnose and formulate a management plan for people of all ages with a variety of acute and chronic health conditions, within their scope of practice. NPs currently work in a variety of areas including; emergency and critical care, aged care, chronic and complex disease, alcohol and other drugs, medical, surgical, private practice, women’s health, mental health and paediatrics. Nurse Practitioners often fill vital roles within communities which have limited access to other healthcare options.

Why do we need to increase the number of NPs in Australia?

Nurse Practitioners provide a level of service that complements that provided by medical practitioners, thereby potentially delivering an enhanced health care system to all Australians. Nurse Practitioners are authorised to practice within their legal authority. Increasing the number of NPs will help to boost the accessibility and efficiency of health care services to patients across a variety of geographic and clinical specialty areas. Nurse Practitioners provide patient-centered, holistic care, which expands on that traditionally delivered by registered nurses.

Nurse Practitioners are capable of providing:

  • Advanced health and physical assessment
  • Diagnosis and treatment of health conditions
  • Designing and implementing therapeutic regimens for patients and carers
  • Initiating and receiving appropriate referrals from health professionals
  • Ordering and interpreting blood and radiology tests
  • Prescribing medications
  • Health education relevant to each condition
  • Health promotion advice
  • Holistic health care support

Why are nurse practitioners vital to our health care system?

Nurse practitioners have varied clinical background specialties. Their scope of practice extends that of the traditional registered nurse role and includes the authority to diagnose, prescribe medication, prescribe treatment, referral to other professionals and admission to a hospital, where appropriate.

There is a huge potential for nurse practitioners to address the current and increasing demand for health services. Nurse Practitioners have the potential to improve health outcomes in rural and regional areas where there is a perceived gap in the availability of healthcare services. Further, across all areas of healthcare there are delayed assessments, review of current conditions and medication management – all areas that can potentially be addressed by expanding Nurse Practitioner services.

As a result of increased services provided by Nurse Practitioners, a number of communities across Australia are benefiting from improved healthcare outcomes as a result of direct care, support of systems, education, research and professional leadership.

To find out more about becoming a nurse practitioner or for useful contacts for development opportunities for the sector, visit www.acnp.org.au.