Darling Downs Health is celebrating the role of nurse practitioners (NP) during Nurse Practitioner Week from 9-15 December, and in particular 12 December, which is Nurse Practitioner Day.
Darling Downs Health Executive Director Nursing and Midwifery Services Ms Andrea Nagle said nurse practitioners provided a vital link between medicine and nursing.
“The theme of Nurse Practitioner (NP) Week this year is ‘Much more than you know’ and that’s very appropriate given the specialised skillsets that nurse practitioners bring to the workplace,” she said.
“What a lot of people may not realise is that to be a nurse practitioner you must first be a registered nurse (RN), then you train in a specialty area, then you do additional study to get your Master’s degree.
“This means in a busy environment like an emergency department (ED) a highly trained NP can attend to cases needing an advanced skillset, which then frees up doctors to attend to more serious cases.”
Executive Director Toowoomba Hospital Ms Shirley-Anne Gardiner said nurse practitioners were a vital component in maintaining patient flow in busy facilities like Toowoomba Hospital.
“Once endorsed, an NP can, among other things, prescribe medications, order x-rays and diagnostics, and refer patients to specialists,” she said.
“So they provide a conduit between nursing and medical roles, and this helps enormously in keeping patient flow moving efficiently, in both ED and specialist outpatient settings”.
Randall Oliver, one of 13 NPs working across Darling Downs Health, said the role had only been in Australia for a relatively short time.
“The first NPs in Australia were endorsed on 12 December 2000 and there are now more than 1,800 across the country,” he said.
“Here at Toowoomba we have six NPs in ED, one each in urogynaecology and aged care; at Stanthorpe we have one each in ED and mental health; one in ED at Warwick Hospital; and one in renal care at Kingaroy.
“As specialist and experienced clinicians in ED we work predominantly in the Fast Track unit where we increase the throughput, which really helps with patient flow.
“This benefit mostly arises from the fact that NPs are able to assess and treat patients autonomously – that is, without a doctor overseeing them.
“It’s great to be part of a highly efficient team that we think is well regarded by both our nursing and medical colleagues.
“For someone interested in taking their registered nursing career to the ultimate clinical level, the NP role is an exciting and rewarding path that will challenge you, stretch you and ultimately fulfil you.”