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Nurses need standardised roles: researchers

Australian nurses are plagued by too many roles and titles. By Annie May

The increasing number of new nursing roles and titles that exist in Australia is out of hand, say researchers. And with the many and varied titles comes confusion – for nurses, other health staff and the public.

However, with the move to a national registration system there is now an opportunity to standardise roles and titles across all states and territories.

“Currently we are consistent in the title and responsibilities of RNs, ENs and nurse practitioners. But that is it,” Professor Christine Duffield, director of the Centre for Health Services Management, at the UTS faculty of nursing, midwifery and health, told Nursing Review.

“The next step is to look at all the other roles in the middle, which there are many.”

In an article published in Collegian Duffield and colleagues, said the growth in the number of roles and position titles can be put down to nursing salaries and conditions of employment traditionally being industrially driven by each state’s nursing union.

As a result, nursing positions and titles have also been determined industrially, rather than by the profession.

“This has led to a large number of differences in titles, responsibilities, and salaries for similar positions across the country. Australia is not big enough a country for this to be happening,” Duffield said.

One issue is that nurses with different titles have the same role and function, causing confusion.
“Many titles also have an overlapping role in practice, leading to a waste of already stretched human resources. Another concern is that staff are unaware of the exact skills and responsibilities required for their title.”

Standardising roles and titles will not be an easy task, Duffield acknowledges.

“First there will need to be an agreement on what specialities exist. The question then has to be asked if we keep this number or move to something more generic. Next the roles will have to be defined,” she said.

“It won’t be easy, but I believe we have reached a time when we need to ask what are we actually doing by creating more and more titles?”

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