General practice has moved from sole GPs providing cradle to grave care for patients from the front room of their home. Now GPs work in teams to meet the needs of an ageing population and patients with chronic disease or complex care needs. General practice still provides cradle to grave care, but it's a team effort. Nursing roles are diversifying to meet this need.
While most nurse practitioners work in hospitals and in specialised care teams, The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) welcomes practice nurses and nurse practitioners as part of the general practice team. Nurses enhance the range and quality of care provided to patients in general practice.
"However, expanding practice teams bring challenges that we need to address," said Dr Chris Mitchell, RACGP President, and GP in Northern NSW.
"It is important that we consider nurse practitioners through the prism of patient safety and continually improving patient services. To be effective we need to collaboratively devise roles and responsibilities based on nurse practitioner competencies. We don't want to fragment care; we don't want quality standards to drop. We want to work with our nursing colleagues to ensure that patients continue to receive high quality care in general practice.
"The RACGP supports nurse practitioners working as part of the general practice team.
"A core role of GPs is to coordinate the care of our patients and to provide clinical leadership. As it currently stands the Government's proposal to extend Medicare provider numbers to nurse practitioners has the potential to fragment care, increase costs, and unnecessarily increase the complexity of navigating through the health care system.
"We look forward to working alongside nurse practitioners as part of the Australian general practice team," said Dr Mitchell.
The RACGP has a Memorandum of Understanding with the Australian Practice Nurses Association and liaises on key issues with this group regularly.
A nurse practitioner is a registered nurse who has acquired the expert knowledge base, complex decision making skills and clinical competencies for expanded practice, the characteristics of who are shaped by the context and/or country in which s/he is credentialed to practise. A Masters degree is recommended for entry level. (International Council of Nurses. ICN announces position on advanced nursing roles 2002 Available from: http://www.icn.ch/PR19_02.htm).
About the RACGP
The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) is responsible for maintaining standards for quality clinical practice, education and training, and research in Australian general practice. The RACGP represents the majority of Australia's urban and rural general practitioners. Visit www.racgp.org.au.
GP'09 - The Conference for General Practice
A doctor for all seasons
1-4 October 2009, Perth Western Australia