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Have you considered what a career outside the four walls of a hospital looks like?

Would you like to work within a community, to make a difference throughout people’s lives? In 2015 the Australian Primary Health Care Nursing Association (APNA) received funding from the Commonwealth Department of Health to develop a Career and Education Framework to support the current and future nursing workforce in primary healthcare, by addressing recruitment and retention issues in the nursing profession. From start to finish the framework has been developed using a co-design approach by nurses, for nurses, which led us to deliver it through a mobile responsive website platform. Integral to the development of the framework was an extensive consultation conducted throughout 2016 and 2017. This included 53 semi structured interviews with nursing and primary healthcare experts, 43 in-depth prototype interviews, five language refinement workshops, 18 workshops across Australia including an online consultation series to facilitate access for non-metropolitan participants (n=254).

In August this year was launched, housing the framework and an interactive self-assessment tool. The self assessment was designed in response to retention issues identified during the consultations, and is modelled on the Strong Model and Ackerman’s work (Ackerman et al.1996; Mick and Ackerman 2000). What we found by talking to, many nurses, is that they find it difficult to describe their professional value to their employer, to describe the breadth of their role and identify professional strengths, and actively plan their continuing professional development (CPD).

The self-assessment enables registered nurses (RNs) working in primary healthcare to professionally reflect on their level of practice across the five domains of primary healthcare nursing; clinical care; education; research; optimising health systems and leadership (adapted from the Strong Model and Ackerman et al.). The nurse is provided with 30 self-assessment questions, each with four possible answers. Responses are weighted according to whether a nurse indicates they are learning, confident in or lead/guide others in relation to their nursing practice. On completion, the nurse is provided with a personalised report, outlining their strengths, and areas for professional development in accordance with each domain. The terms Foundation, Intermediate and Advanced are used to describe a nurse’s level of practice according to their responses. The report also provides nurses with recommendations on how to strengthen their knowledge, skillset and competence across each domain.

Nurses who participated in the prototype testing (n=43) said the self-assessment would help them actively plan their CPD, discuss and demonstrate their professional value, skillset and knowledge with their employer, healthcare team and patients, and identify new nursing roles for career progression.

It is important that primary healthcare nurses understand and can articulate their professional value, and have the means to continually evolve in their careers – provides nurses with the tools and support to do so.

Brie Woods and Emily Wheeler are Project Managers and Dr Jacqui Richmond is a Consultant. All are in the Career and Education Framework at Australian Primary Health Care Nursing Association (APNA)