NPs urged to lead push to improve aged care

Nurse practitioners should actively engage with the current Aged Care Royal Commission, champion nursing and use their expertise to lead change across the embattled sector.

Australian College of Nurse Practitioners (ACNP) Vice President Amanda Davies delivered the call to action during a keynote address to delegates at this year’s ACNP National Conference in Melbourne that provided an update on the scope and emerging findings of the inquiry.

“It takes a whole community. It’s not about individual effort. We all have to get behind this because one day it will be us requiring those [aged care] services so we have an opportunity to shape what that looks like now,” Ms Davies told members.

Ms Davies said evidence shows nurse practitioners are an undisputed solution to safe, high-quality care in aged care and encouraged NPs to advocate for better quality outcomes and promote positive resident experiences.

“There’s lots of opportunities for nursing and I really encourage us to think about strengthening our nursing leadership in aged care,” she said.

“We need to optimise nursing scope of practice. All our registered nurses, enrolled nurses and our advanced practice nurses. Look at delivering some innovative models tailored to meeting individual preferences and needs. Community care is one area where we could be looking to deliver different types of nurse practitioner models. Looking at increased, flexible nurse-led services in dementia, end-of-life care and wound management. There’s a whole raft of areas we can make a difference.”

Ms Davies said it was vital nurse practitioners continued to promote the importance of the nursing workforce in aged care, particularly the benefits of advanced practice nurses, and the broader profession’s contribution to quality outcomes.

“There’s a huge opportunity for us now to lead in aged care. It’s time. Now is the time.”

Ms Davies said ACNP continues to meet with key stakeholders, including aged care Minister Richard Colbeck, to help inform them about NPs scope of practice and influence.

She said numerous nurse practitioner models backed by strong evidence meant NPs were in the driver’s seat to trigger meaningful change and better health outcomes, listing in-reach and outreach programs as just some of the opportunities at hand.

Ms Davies said change was inevitable and that nurse practitioners should be prepared to lead the way.

She said areas of focus should include better career pathways in aged care, including for advanced practice nurses, boosting education programs, scholarships to encourage nurses to enter aged care, and supporting potential reforms under the current Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) Review.

“We need to continue to challenge the legislative and administrative barriers that prevent us from practicing to full scope and that’s really to make sure the client gets the best care possible,” Ms Davies said.

“We need to challenge the systems, challenge the culture and the myths about the nurse practitioner role now more than ever.”

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