Each year, the Australian College of Nurse Practitioners (ACNP) marks Nurse Practitioner (NP) week by celebrating the important work of nurse practitioners across the country. The aim of Nurse Practitioner Week 2021, running from the 6-12 December, is to kick start the conversation about nurse practitioners in a bid to boost understanding of the role they play in healthcare and the value they add to their patients/clients.
During NP Week, ACNP is challenging Australia’s 2,200-plus nurse practitioners to have at least 10 conversations with the likes of patients, university students, family and politicians about the speciality. Reaching the target would mean a further 22,000-plus conversations that help “educate, recognise and empower” nurse practitioners. Similarly, ACNP is also challenging the broader community to start conversations about NPs and educate others on the value they bring to healthcare.
Speaking to the ANMJ, ACNP President Leanne Boase described NP Week as an opportunity to highlight the contributions nurse practitioners make to the health system and patient care.
“I really hope that more people understand what nurse practitioners do as a result of it and what the potential is as well.” Ms Boase said.
“If every nurse practitioner has 10 conversations, and even one or two of those results in somebody that has more conversations, we could potentially spread the word about what nurse practitioners do quite broadly.”
This year’s challenge includes a list of suggestions for what NP Week conversations could cover. They include a NPs scope of practice, the challenges faced each day by NPs, and feedback on the recently announced Australian Government Department of Health’s Nurse Practitioner 10 Year Plan Survey.
Ms Boase says the consumer feedback focused consultation, which seeks views on issues that have an impact on the delivery of care by nurse practitioners and calls for innovations to enhance the delivery of care, will hopefully drive long-overdue change.
She says evidence supporting the expansion of the role of nurse practitioners and value in increasing patient access has been around for years, yet, has never led to any meaningful improvement.
Positively, the 10 Year Plan aims to take action on existing evidence and identify what currently needs to be addressed across a range of areas. Some of those include ways to increase the workforce and looking at the barriers that prevent many RNs working at an advanced level from choosing to become nurse practitioners, such as not enough jobs, having to charge patients more to make it financially viable, and the extensive education requirements and need for additional support.
“Some of the things that have been talked about are how quickly can we double the existing workforce and what would get in the way of that,” Ms Boase explains.
“The goal is to try to get more people access to nurse practitioners and that’s why in this instance the consultation is aimed at consumers: what experiences they’ve had with nurse practitioners, whether they’d like to see more, if they’ve had any trouble accessing healthcare.”
Ms Boase, who runs her own private practice, says she has already used the theme for NP Week 2021 to talk about the role among patients and been pleased with the engagement and feedback.
“It’s also an opportunity to talk to them about how we are educated and prepared for our role,” she points out.
“They see the differences, they see the nursing approach in what we do, they see that we explain things, we assess more holistically, we look at the whole person and the family as well. They see differences but they can’t quite put their finger on it. And when we talk about the nursing role that underpins what we’re doing and what that brings to the table and we talk about that what were aiming for with their care is to promote self-management, promote prevention, they get really excited and they ask ‘what can I do to support NPs more?’.”
With Australia headed for a federal election next year, Ms Boase called on all nurses to make their voices heard about the issues holding back the profession.
“A lot of what I’m experiencing in my role now [as ACNP President] is trying to talk nursing at the policy level, trying to talk nursing, particularly with the Commonwealth Government and the Department of Health, is extraordinarily challenging. The amount of convincing we have to do to even get to the table, let alone be considered as a significant part of health in this country is insane.
“We need to start talking about that and we need a government that’s going to ensure that health is not just about medicine, that it’s also about nursing and allied health and the entire periphery of healthcare. It needs to encompass all things health. Health is not one profession, health is all the professions working together and we need a government who’s going to go in there and say right we’ve got to look at this Department of Health, we’ve got very little nursing representation in the Department of Health; we’ve got a big challenge even having these conversations.
“When you look at the response to COVID, we really have not activated our nurses in the community, we haven’t activated our nurse practitioners at all in the response to COVID and it just comes back to the same root cause, which is we’re not at the table to begin with, we’re not being heard and we’re not being valued highly enough by our own Department of Health and we need a government that’s going to commit to sorting that out.”
As another challenging year draws to a close, Ms Boase says she hopes Nurse Practitioner Weeks gives NPs across the country the chance to reflect on how far they’ve come and the important contribution they continue to make.
“Don’t forget to really take some time to yourself and acknowledge what you have achieved,” she says.
“It takes a lot to become an NP and it takes a big heart to become an NP as well. And don’t forget your nursing colleagues; celebrate with them this week as well and hopefully we can guide a few of them to become NPs of the future.
“Don’t forget we’re all in this together. We have a job now to do, to improve health in Australia through better activation of nursing and better recognition of the nursing role.”
To find out more about Nurse Practitioner Week visit – https://www.acnp.org.au/np-week