Transforming health care delivery: The role of primary health care nurses in rural and remote Australia

Tracy Robinson, Linda Govan, Cressida Bradley, Rachel Rossiter

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Aim: This paper describes the policy context and approaches taken to improve access to primary health care in Australia by supporting nurses to deliver improved integrated care meeting community needs.
Context: In Primary Health Care (PHC), the nursing workforce are predominantly employed in the general practice sector. Despite evidence that nurse-led models of care can bridge traditional treatment silos in the provision of specialised and coordinated care, PHC nurses' scope of practice varies dramatically. Nurse-led models of care are imperative for rural and remote populations that experience workforce shortages and barriers to accessing health care. Existing barriers include policy constraints, limited organisational structures, education and financing models.
Approach: The Australian Primary Health Care Nurses Association (APNA) received funding to implement nurse-led clinics as demonstration projects. The clinics enable PHC nurses to work to their full scope of practice, improve continuity of care and increase access to health care in under serviced locations. We reviewed a range of peer-reviewed literature, policy documents, grey literature and APNA provided sources, particularly those relevant to rural and remote populations. We argue more focus is needed on how to address variations in the scope of practice of the rural and remote PHC nursing workforce.
Conclusion: Despite growing evidence for the effectiveness of nurse-led models of care, significant policy and financial barriers continue to inhibit PHC nurses working to their full scope of practice. If their potential to transform health care and increase access to health services is to be realised these barriers must be addressed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)592-596
Number of pages5
JournalAustralian Journal of Rural Health
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 05 Apr 2024


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