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Advanced carers write the script

By Josh Jennings

A pioneering nurse practitioner takes his skills to the next level, writes Josh Jennings.

Although nurse practitioners remain a relative minority group in Australian nursing - as of November last year, there were 624 endorsed nurse practitioners in Australia, compared with more than 150,000 in the US - organisations such as Peninsula Health are gradually changing this.

Peninsula Health employs three nurse practitioners; however, another 10 nurses are in the process of earning their nurse-practitioner accreditation.

Mark Williams, a Hospital in the Home nurse practitioner at Peninsula Health and Australia's first to hold the title, says becoming one has been a boon for his career.

"It's a chance to develop your career from a clinical point of view, for people who aren't particularly interested in going down the management role," he says.

Nurse practitioners are registered nurses with solid education and experience that enable them to operate autonomously and collaboratively in advanced clinical roles.

For Williams, having nurse-practitioner status means he has the authority to prescribe medicine to patients, make admission and discharge decisions, order pathology and diagnostic tests and write medical certificates.

"The clinical work for me is all about patient contact and changing the experience the patient has," he says.

An executive director at Peninsula Health, Jan Child, says nurse practitioners deliver a level of professionalism in their areas that other staff can use as inspiration.

"Our nurse practitioners are role models for other nurses across the health service," she says. "Many others have been inspired to seek the training required to extend their skill set and earn their nurse-practitioner accreditation."

Julie Chimyong is a nurse practitioner at Peninsula Health, specialising in treating patients with kidney disease.

"It has allowed me to make decisions in patient care to ensure timely diagnosis and intervention, and it has given the medical staff more time to tend to patients with acute medical needs while I tend to the needs of the patients with chronic health problems," Chimyong says.

The requirements to become a nurse practitioner vary from state to state but, generally, applicants have a master's degree and extensive experience in an advanced role in their specialist clinical area.

Chimyong says becoming a nurse practitioner has transformed her career. "Traditionally, apart from management, there have been few areas where nurses could really expand their scope of practice. I enjoy the challenge of the new role and the knowledge I've gained from the additional study." She says her employer obtained the necessary funding to support her role and enabled her to attend education days, conferences and clinics so she could improve her expertise.

Nurse managers
Number employed in year to August 2012: 11,300
Growth in past 10 years: 282%
Average weekly wage (full time): $1540
Average weekly wage (full time all occupations): $1144
Full time: 73%
Average weekly hours full time: 38.3
Unemployment: Very Low

Published: 10 November 2012

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