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So what’s a nurse practitioner?

The Nurse Practitioner role provides a new level of service to our community. It is designed to provide timely access to healthcare for all Australians.
Australian College of Nurse Practitioners
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Nurse Practitioners (NP) are independent health professionals whose credibility, efficacy and safety in diverse healthcare settings have been demonstrated in Australia and internationally. Since the NP role's birth in the United States in the 1960s, models using the role have extended to approximately 70 countries worldwide, including the United Kingdom, Canada, New Zealand and Australia. The NP role's aim is to improve access to treatment, provide cost-effective care, target at-risk populations, provide outreach services to rural and remote communities and provide clinical mentorship and expertise.

The first two Australian NPs were authorised in New South Wales in 2000 and numbers have grown steadily. The 'Nurse Practitioner' title is protected by National law. The latest figures published by the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) reveal there are 2100 NPs endorsed throughout Australia. Australian NPs practise in diverse settings and speciality areas, ranging from emergency departments (30%) to general practice environments (8%), with the majority (71%) working solely for the public sector.

There are four core activities which define the advanced, extended and collaborative role of NPs in Australia:
  1. Advanced knowledge, skills and expertise in diagnostic assessment and reasoning
  2. The ability to independently prescribe medicines
  3. The ability to independently request and interpret diagnostic tests (pathology, imaging studies, etc)
  4. The ability to independently refer to medical specialists

What kind of NP are you?

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I am a Primary Healthcare Nurse Practitioner who is a generalist with special interest and expertise in the management of heart and lung disease.

I provide healthcare for the episodic minor complaint, as well as ongoing care for complex healthcare needs which require time, individualised care and expert attention.

I am authorised to provide care for clients of all ages, including:

Preventative healthcare, such as:

  • Immunisations
  • Action plans for chronic conditions
  • General wellness checks
  • Skin checks
  • Sexual health
  • Pre-employment physical assessments
  • Smoking cessation counselling and treatment
  • Assistance with achieving and maintaining a healthy weight
  • Nutrition and exercise support
  • HIV PrEP Prescriber

Minor illnesses and injuries, such as:

  • Coughs, colds and infections of the upper and lower respiratory tract
  • Sprains, strains and minor breaks
  • Rashes, abrasions, and minor lacerations

Chronic disease and case management for conditions, such as:

  • Cardiovascular disease (blood pressure, heart disease, cholesterol, etc)
  • Lung disease (asthma, emphysema, etc)
  • Joint and muscle conditions (arthritis, osteoporosis, etc)
  • Mental health issues (depression, anxiety, etc.)
  • HIV S100 Prescriber

Minor procedures, such as:

  • Spirometry, ECGs and 24 Hour Ambulatory Blood Pressure Monitoring
  • Skin lesion biopsy and excision
  • Laceration repairs
  • Implanon insertion and removal
  • Miscellaneous procedures (toenail removal, abscess drainage, cryotherapy for warts, etc)
The type of care I provide as an NP focuses on person-centred, holisitic health and wellbeing approaches. Although I can treat your illness, I’d rather prevent it in the first instance.
Chris Helms, Primary Healthcare Nurse Practitioner

What can’t you do?

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Medicare doesn't subsidise everything NPs are trained to safely and competently do. This is unfair and may result in higher out-of-pocket costs for healthcare consumers choosing an NP as their provider. There are also restrictions at the State/Territory level which prevent NPs from working to their full scope of practice. Examples of these include:

  • Signing workers' compensation forms
  • Signing driver’s licence medicals
  • Approval of formal “GP Chronic Disease” or “Mental Health Management Plans” that result in patient subsidies

Do the above restrictions sound ridiculous? We think so too!

These restrictions result in duplication of care and increasing healthcare expenditures. If you’d like to find out how to lobby your local member in order to advocate for NPs so we can provide these services, please contact us.