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Policy update

Primary health care priorities and RCNA’s stance on BN TAFE

RCNA community and primary health care priorities
RCNA’s second Community and Primary Health Care Nursing Conference – Nursing innovation and leadership in community and primary health care furthered the critical and timely conversation on community and primary health care reform in Australia. The program confirmed RCNA’s positions in regard to national primary health care reform and provided further endorsement for RCNA’s key community and primary health care priorities.

Conference participants supported reform directions that aim to increase the capacity and relevance of the community and primary health care sector within any future health care funding models. Discussions reaffirmed that if access to primary health care is unblocked, communities will benefit through greater choice and better, more equitable access to health care services. Nurses and midwives, with their unique reach and presence within the primary health care sector, are essential to this improved access and must receive the necessary investments to meet a range of population health needs.

Delegates discussed how the nursing profession could make a far greater contribution to health care if appropriately facilitated through alternative financing and governance arrangements that enhance the delivery of holistic preventative health and health promotion programs and activities. There was broad acknowledgement that it is critical policy makers comprehensively recognise and understand that nursing care and service delivery has direct impact on community health outcomes.

“Planners have to understand that nurses offer a unique and often an alternative health workforce with excellent skills and abilities that are not being accessed. In fact, nurses are currently being hogtied by convention, and not able to fully contribute in many settings, waiting for legislation to catch up with reality,” said RCNA CEO Debra Cerasa.

Specifically, conference participants reiterated the crucial needs for the government to:
• commit to fundamental redesign of the health system
• detail and expand the National Primary Health Care Strategy
• invest in community and primary health care nursing and midwifery roles, services and service infrastructure outside general practice
• reduce dependence on general practice
• shape primary health care organisations to support multidisciplinary care
• detail the establishment of Medicare Locals
• enable nurses to influence the design and governance of primary health care reforms
• provide for a greater review of MBS & PBS
• focus on the preventative care role of nurses and midwives
• develop better nursing and midwifery data sources
• appropriately fund and support nurses and midwives to provide care to detainees and asylum seekers.

RCNA will not be flexible on BN TAFE
In a recent issue of Nursing Review there was a suggestion that the nursing profession would be willing to back flip on its position that the Bachelor of Nursing should not be provided outside the university sector. RCNA categorically rejects this assumption and will not support the delivery of the Bachelor of Nursing through the vocational sector.

During this time of health reform, the focus on improvement must be maintained. Especially important are the standards which will ensure assessment and delivery of safe, competent health care.

Registered nurses carry a responsibility for leading ethical, legal and evidence-based nursing decision-making, safely delegating and delivering complex nursing care. As autonomous professionals, registered nurses must be educated in an environment of academic enquiry to equip them to analyse and appropriately respond to the changing needs of the community.

A university education facilitates comparability for registered nurses with the medical and allied health practitioners with whom they work alongside in multidisciplinary care. Registered nurses must also assure the public of an educational status and standard and be accountable for their practice through the provision of safe, quality nursing care.

In addition, a university education for registered nurses is essential because of the research/learning links that define university education. The nursing profession, as it progresses, will need to continue to investigate, research and develop a body of professional knowledge, which can only be supported and facilitated by universities.

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