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That is the question. When it comes to whether or not to have nursing staff in the practice, it is a contentious subject. Which side of the fence do you sit on?

Many practices choose not to have any nursing staff whilst there are those who have a great deal of nursing support.   Similarly many GPs will only work in a practice with nursing support, while others aren’t too concerned as to whether there are nurses or not.

One thing we do know for sure is that nurses are tipped to be taking a leading role in primary health care in the future and this will be linked to future funding and practice incentives.

The Australian government and APNA view nurses as having “critical role in delivering continuity of care for patients, improving their health outcomes. Nurses are a key part of the forthcoming changes in the delivery of primary health care in this country. RNs can play a central role in organising and coordinating care, as well as providing education to patients”.

We have compiled some of the arguments on both sides of the fence based on our conversations with nurses and practice owners across Australia.

Reasons for having practice nurses

  • Reduce the GPs workload and reduce consultation times
  • The PNIP subsidy is likely to cover the majority of the costs
  • Triaging emergency patients and patients during lunch breaks
  • Assist with preparing and prompting care plans, minor procedures, injuries, collecting bloods and immunisations
  • Help GPs with administration and recalls
  • Act as an advocate and liaison between the practice and local community
  • Manage the clinical care systems within the clinic

Reasons against having nurses

  • Under-utilized nursing staff – If the nurses are not used to their full potential then you may be better of having no nurse at all.
  • Conflict – this can arise over recognition that nurses receive for their work or how they are treated compared with the GPs. It also needs to be clear what the GPs want the nurses to do to manage their patients.
  • Chronic disease management (CDM) – Their wages come from the service fee. If the nurses are not streamlining CDM for GPs, then it can become financially unsustainable to keep this service
  • Not enough GPs – for example for single GP practices, it is not sustainable to have a full-time nurse
  • Continuity of Care – If there is a lack of communication between nurses and GPs or notes are not done properly, it can cause issues with the patients or between the GP and nurse.
  • Finding good nurses – If a nurse if hired and is not experience in General Practice or the way your individual practice operates, a lot of time and money needs to be put into their training

What do you think?