This week on February 7 marks a significant day in the healthcare industry – the inaugural Primary Health Care Nurses Day. This special occasion was created by the Australian Primary Health Care Nurses Association to recognise and celebrate the invaluable contributions of primary health care nurses, who are often overlooked despite their vital role in our healthcare system.
In 2020, the AIHW estimated that more than 82,000 nurses work outside of hospital settings including nurse practitioners, registered nurses, enrolled nurses and registered midwives. Since our inception fifteen years ago, Larter has been a passionate supporter of the growth and development of the primary care nursing workforce through education and training, evaluation, and writing business cases for advanced nursing roles.
In line with this year’s theme, The Anatomy of a Primary Health Care Nurse, let us take a closer look at the multifaceted role of primary health nurses, and challenge our perceptions of what they do.
At first glance, one may think that the key responsibility of a primary health care nurse is to provide patient care. However, there was a fabulous study published in 2009 with a focus on primary care nurses in general practice Enhancing care, improving quality: the six roles of the general practice nurse that dispelled this myth. The study found there are actually six key roles that these nurses fulfill:
- patient carer
- quality controller
- problem solver
- educator, and
- agent of connectivity.
Although patient care is certainly a crucial aspect of their job, it’s slightly less than half of what nurses do each day. Nurses spend almost half their time on clinical activities like vaccinations and patient education. General practice nurses also play an integral role in organising and managing the daily operations of a general practice. They are responsible for scheduling appointments, coordinating with other healthcare professionals, and ensuring that the practice runs smoothly.
Moreover, these nurses also act as quality controllers, constantly assessing and monitoring the quality of care provided to patients. They are always on the lookout for ways to improve patient outcomes and ensure that best practices are being followed. Accreditation is seen as an opportunity for ongoing reflection by nurses.
In addition, primary health care nurses serve as problem solvers in the busy general practice environment, using their critical thinking skills to address any issues or concerns that may arise with patients. They also play a significant role in educating patients (and other staff members) on various health topics, from disease prevention to medication management.
But perhaps one of the most underrated roles of primary health care nurses is that of an agent of connectivity. Nurses are central to bridging gaps between different disciplines and providing pivotal links in organisational cohesion. They often serve as a bridge between patients and other healthcare professionals, ensuring that all aspects of a patient’s treatment are well-coordinated and communicated effectively.
As we can see, the role of a primary health care nurse is far from being one-dimensional. It is a ‘complete body of work’ that requires a diverse set of skills and responsibilities. Primary care nurses also work in a wide variety of settings – for example correctional care, community health; and also have pathways to enhance clinical skills.
So let us take this opportunity to thank and appreciate these nurses for their hard work, dedication, and unwavering commitment to providing quality healthcare to our communities.
We invite you to celebrate and recognise the amazing work of primary health care nurses by sharing this blog post and spreading awareness of their vital role in our healthcare system. Happy Primary Health Care Nurses Day!