The National Rural Health Alliance (the Alliance) welcomes the opportunity to make a submission to the Nurse Practitioner 10 Year Plan Consultation. The Alliance represents 42 member organisations encompassing healthcare professionals, health service and educational providers, and consumers located in or servicing rural, regional and remote (rural) Australia. The Alliance is committed to improving the health and wellbeing of Australians living in rural communities.
Rural people and communities experience poorer health than their metropolitan counterparts. The maldistribution of the health workforce contributes significantly to this situation via reduced access to health services. Nurses make up the largest proportion of the rural health workforce. While there are still challenges to the adequacy of supply of the nursing workforce in rural areas, they are often the only health practitioner present when others are not. Nurse practitioners (NPs), endorsed by the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia, work at an advanced level and have the expertise and legal authority to practice autonomously across all health care contexts in Australia. Though the NP workforce is small, they currently contribute significantly to the health system in rural and remote Australia and have been found to increase access to care in many parts of the system relevant to rural health. Despite this, a series of barriers are currently preventing the expansion and further contribution of NPs to improving rural health outcomes. In this submission we explore these issues and present a series of recommendations for inclusion in the plan to address the barriers and facilitate