More than just numbers! Perceptions of remote area nurse staffing in Northern Territory Government health clinics

Terry Dunbar, Lisa Bourke*, Lorna Murakami-Gold

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    16 Citations (Scopus)


    Objective: The need for more Remote Area Nurses in the Northern Territory is clear. This paper investigates the perspectives of Remote Area Nurse workforce issues among multiple stakeholders. The aim is to identify how Remote Area Nurse staffing issues are perceived by clinic managers, Remote Area Nurses themselves, Aboriginal colleagues and community members in seven remote communities in the Northern Territory. Design: This is a qualitative study that uses interviews and focus groups to identify key messages of local stakeholders about Remote Area Nurse workforce issues. A content analysis was used for data analysis. Setting: Seven diverse remote Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory with government-run health clinics were visited. Participants: Non-random sampling techniques were used to target staff at the clinics at the time of field work. Staff and community members, who agreed to participate, were interviewed either individually or in groups. Interviews were conducted with 5 Managers, 29 Remote Area Nurses, 12 Aboriginal staff (some clinics did not have Aboriginal staff) and 56 community residents. Twelve focus groups were conducted with community members. Results: Content analysis revealed that participants thought having the “right” nurse was more important than having more nurses. Participants highlighted the need for Remote Area Nurses to have advanced clinical and cultural skills. While managers and, to a lesser extent, Remote Area Nurses prioritised clinical skills, Aboriginal staff and community residents prioritised cultural skills. Conclusions: Participants identified the importance of clinical and cultural skills and reiterated that getting the “right” Remote Area Nurse was more important than simply recruiting more nurses. Thus, retention strategies need to be more targeted and cultural skills prioritised in recruitment.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)245-250
    Number of pages6
    JournalAustralian Journal of Rural Health
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - Jun 2019


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