Improving the lot of a practice nurse

As president of the Australian Primary Health Care Nurses Association, Karen Booth says her priority is to improve workforce recognition and satisfaction among her members. She tells 6minutes why.

You say primary care nurses need to be heard, why?

We are a significant part of the [primary health care] workforce. Sixty-five percent of GPs have a practice nurse and if you have a look at our membership it’s now up to 11,000-12,000. That’s a significant number of health professionals who can contribute to policy discussions concerning primary care. Nurses know how projects or programs work on the ground.

Can you give me an example?

Well, in relation to the co-payment issue, our voice is absolutely important. We are hearing the government has consulted with the AMA but there is concern that the current reporting makes it look like there is only one association that has a voice. There are many groups, including us, that can contribute to how primary health care is run.

Is APNA supportive of a GP co-payment?

As it currently stands we couldn’t support an across-the-board co-payment. We are concerned for socially disadvantaged groups.

What about working conditions for primary care nurses?

They are very variable. There are some wonderful examples of GP and practice nurse partnerships and we often write about them in our newsletter. But many nurses feel frustrated that they are not regarded as highly as they would be in a hospital setting.

Why do you think that is?