'Chronically underutilised': Highly skilled nurses taking on non-clinical tasks

'It really is a complete waste of time having highly qualified… registered nurses sitting on the front desk'

'Chronically underutilised': Highly skilled nurses taking on non-clinical tasks

Four out of five highly skilled nurses in Australia's GP clinics are being "chronically underutilised" as they are forced to undertake non-clinical and administrative work.

The new national survey from the Australian Primary Health Care Nurses Association (APNA) revealed that nurses with an average of over 21 years of experience are regularly working on the "front desk" of primary health clinics.

"Nurses are valued, trusted, and skilled but are chronically underutilised at a time of severe workforce shortage. Nurses are here to make Australia healthier and instead are underutilised," said APNA president Karen Booth in a statement.

Among the tasks underutilised nurses carry out include:

  • Doing recalls and/or patient appointment reminders (68.8%)
  • Stock management and ordering (32%)
  • Working at reception (16%)

'A complete waste of time'

These daily non-clinical tasks are preventing these experienced nurses from carrying out vital clinical tasks, including women's health checks mental health assessments, suturing, cardiovascular assessments, arthritis education, diabetes education, and asthma education, according to the survey.

"It really is a complete waste of time having highly qualified and very experienced registered nurses sitting on the front desk, whilst people are waiting longer and longer to see a doctor," Booth said.

According to Booth, registered and enrolled nurses should also have the opportunity to work their full set of skills without the need to be "need to be over-seen under a collaborative arrangement with a GP."

"This would importantly free-up the largest, clinical workforce in primary health care and make it easier for people to access health care when and where they need it, particularly in rural and remote regions where chronic medical workforce shortages are preventing people from receiving basic health care checks which nurses are trained to deliver," Booth said.

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