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Seize the opportunity to reform scope of practice

Health reform gives nurses a golden opportunity to develop a new vision for what the profession can be in the future. Understanding scope of practice is an important part of seizing this chance.

Allison Willis, principal consultant at the Health Objective, made this point with Nursing Review when discussing her upcoming presentation at the Warrnambool Nurses Conference in August.

Willis said if nurses don’t grasp the opportunity to be involved in reform now they will be missing the boat. “The potential for nursing in this period of change is to be visionary about where we want nursing to be in the next five, 10, 15, 20 years,” Willis explained. “If we don't own that discussion and if we're not involved in that, those decisions will be made for us by others who don't understand our profession.”

She said it’s nurses’ responsibility to be actively involved in the debate to shape the profession in the future. “It's all about scope of practice," she argued. "And if we don't understand what it is now [and] we don't have vision for the future, then others are going to control where our scope of practice goes.”

Willis’s presentation will dive into the question of whether nurses taking control of their scope of practice is a risk or an opportunity.

“In terms of trying to articulate and understand their scope of practice, [nurses] often don't know whether they're required to do something because the law requires them to do something or … because that's always been the culture,” Willis said.

She added nurses can move away from the culture and choose not to fall into doing something just because it’s the way it has always been done.

Willis said most of nurses' practice is determined by organisational policy and the authority that nurses have to perform certain things. “Organisational policy can get it wrong or can be silent on things,” she said. “We can limit nursing scope of practice by failing to fully understand what the potential is in terms of what we can do within policy and failing to understand what the legislation says about certain things.

“Policy should be flexible and something we're working within, not sort of the chain that we drag around behind us that limits our practice.”

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