Survey reveals Australian nurses are underemployed

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

23 November 2009: A new survey carried out with assistance from Australian Catholic University (ACU) staff has found that Australia is failing to make best use of nurse practitioners within the health system.

The role of nurse practitioners was created several years ago and gave highly-trained nurses extra responsibilities such as prescribing medication and referring patients to other health practitioners.

However, Professor Sandy Middleton, Director of ACUs National Centre for Clinical Outcomes Research, said that this first national survey found that only about 75 per cent of respondents were employed as nurse practitioners.

"Our research makes clear that nurse practitioners are facing significant barriers to providing service in this important health provider role, Professor Middleton said.

Given widespread workforce shortages and rising health care costs, we simply cannot afford to under-utilise this important sector of the health workforce.

The questionnaire looked at demographics, the authorisation process, professional development, employment profile and clinical service patterns.

The survey found that nearly a third of respondents are waiting for approval to prescribe medication and over 70 per cent stated that lack of Medicare provider numbers and lack of authority to prescribe through the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme was extremely limiting to their practice.

More information on the study can be found in the most recent edition of the Australian Health Review, the peer reviewed journal of the Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association.