Nurses could fill gaps in health care: ACN

The Australian College of Nursing has applauded the Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care for its release of the Australian Atlas of Health Care Variation.

The atlas paints a picture of significant differences in health care across the country and lays the foundation that will lead to a more detailed exploration of the underlying clinical, social and health workforce issues, says the ACN.

A particular focus of the atlas is the marked variation in health care across urban, rural, regional and remote areas of Australia.

“In order to address some of the possible causes for these variations, opportunities exist here to extend the scope of practice of nurses, including fully utilising the role of nurse practitioners in leading change,” says Adjunct Professor Kylie Ward, CEO of ACN.

As an initiative, this atlas provides a visual indicator not only of what may be deficient in current approaches to health care delivery but also what the Australian health care system could achieve in the future.

“Nurses are the largest health professional workforce in Australia as well as a significant contributor to communities, optimal patient outcomes and experiences,” says Ward.

“In time as the atlas expands its scope, nursing sensitive indicators could be incorporated so the full potential of the nursing profession can be realised which, in turn, will have positive benefits for communities throughout Australia,.”

Greater recognition that geographical variation is influenced by the social determinants of health and the individual person’s ability to be involved in shared decision-making regarding their care will also be key factors in finding solutions.

Larger investments in nurses’ delivery of health education, health literacy and health promotion will help to empower individuals where appropriate to be full partners in their own healthcare, the ACN says.

A seemingly unwarranted geographic variation in health care delivery may be linked to a mal-distribution of clinicians. The atlas is portraying that the current Australian health workforce strategies are not necessarily reflecting population health needs, the ACN says.

Developing responsive, long-term synergistic approaches to the full health workforce whether nurses, allied health professionals or medical practitioners, will help to address the variation. This work should be carried out at the national level, with critical input from local and state authorities, as well as clinicians, consumers and leading professional organisations such as ACN.

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