‘We have the nurses. We have the expertise’: Peak bodies call for nurse practitioners to be utilised in COVID-19 vaccination rollout

Getting Australia’s vaccination rollout back on target through NPs

Hundreds of COVID-19 vaccine strike teams led by nurse practitioners with the capability of vaccinating 300,000 Australians per day will help get the country’s sluggish vaccine rollout back on target, according to a coalition of peak nursing organisations.

The coalition is urging today’s National Cabinet meeting to activate the nation’s highly-skilled nurse practitioner (NP) workforce in the COVID-9 vaccination rollout.

Nurses deliver the majority of vaccines in Australia and NPs are the most highly skilled and educated nurses in the clinical nursing workforce. They have the qualifications and expertise to diagnose, order investigations and prescribe medications. They are also recognised as being able to lead a health team in exactly the same way a doctor can and are actively engaged with a developed client base in their communities.

Yet, despite pushing to contribute to Australia’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout from the beginning, nurse practitioners have continued to be excluded and sidelined by the Morrison Government.

The coalition of peak nursing organisations, which includes the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (ANMF) and Australian College of Nurse Practitioners (ACNP), says it is ready to immediately support government efforts to identify and recruit nurses and operationalise a nurse-practitioner-led response to the COVID-19 vaccination program.

To date, just 14.1% of the 19 million Australians aged over 18 are fully vaccinated, while a further 17.7% have had their first dose.

If National Cabinet includes an NP-led vaccination model to accelerate the vaccination rollout, the peak nursing organisations argue the nation can achieve its goal of vaccinating at least 80% of the population much sooner.

The model would include:

  • 250 Vaccine Strike Teams spread throughout the country at nursing homes, stadiums, convention centres, universities, and rural and remote sites
  • Each team led by one nurse practitioner, plus 10 nurses and three admin staff
  • Each nurse vaccinating 15 patients per hour (based on 50% efficiency of a nurse-led school vaccination program)
  • Each strike team vaccinating up to 1,200 patients per day, based on an eight-hour day
  • 250 teams vaccinating 300,000 patients per day
  • 1,500,000 patients vaccinated each week, based on a five-day working week

Under the plan, the timeframe for the entire Australian population having a first dose would be 8.9 weeks. The time for the entire Australian population having the second dose is 10.8 weeks (plus one month for Pfizer and three months AstraZeneca).

Some pharmacies are already recruiting NPs to oversee their local vaccination programs.

The use of NPs in the vaccination rollout is vital to protect Australians from COVID-19, the peaks say.

“We have the nurses, we have the expertise. Include us in your rollout Minister Hunt and we will provide your solution.”

The coalition of peak nursing organisations includes the ANMF, ACNP, CRANAplus, APNA, CATSINaM, and ACORN.

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