Enhancing care, improving quality: The six roles of the general practice nurse

Christine B. Phillips, Christopher Pearce, Sally Hall, Marjan Kljakovic, Bonnie Sibbald, Kathryn Dwan, Julie Porritt, Rachel Yates

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    62 Citations (Scopus)


    Objective: To describe the evolving roles of practice nurses in Australia and the impact of nurses on general practice function. Design, setting and participants: Multimethod research in two substudies: (a) a rapid appraisal based on observation, photographs of workspaces, and interviews with nurses, doctors and managers in 25 practices in Victoria and New South Wales, conducted between September 2005 and March 2006; and (b) naturalistic longitudinal case studies of introduced change in seven practices in Victoria, NSW, South Australia, Queensland and Western Australia, conducted between January 2007 and March 2008. Results: We identified six roles of nurses in general practice: patient carer, organiser, quality controller, problem solver, educator and agent of connectivity. Although the first three roles are appreciated as nursing strengths by both nurses and doctors, doctors tended not to recognise nurses' educator and problem solver roles within the practice. Only 21% of the clinical activities undertaken by nurses were directly funded through Medicare. The role of the nurse as an agent of connectivity, uniting the different workers within the practice organisation, is particularly notable in small and medium-sized practices, and may be a key determinant of organisational resilience. Conclusion: Nurseing roles may be enhanced through progressive broadening of the scope of the patient care role, fostering the nurse educator role, and addressing barriers to role enhancement, such as organisational inexperience with interprofessional work and lack of a career structure. In adjusting the funding structure for nurses, care should be taken not to create perverse incentives to limit nurses' clinical capacity or undermine the flexibility that gives practice nursing much of its value for nurses and practices.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)92-97
    Number of pages6
    JournalMedical Journal of Australia
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - 20 Jul 2009


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