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Nurse Practitioners

13 December 2023

It’s been all over the news for the last several months that there is an Australia-wide GP shortage. It’s particularly acute in rural and regional areas, and the major stress in our cities is access to a bulk-billing GP.

Bulk-billing numbers are plummeting. Factors include GPs taking early retirement after the stresses of COVID-19 and Medicare payments (to doctors) not being linked to inflation and therefore effectively reducing over time.

However, the biggest factor is that young doctors don’t want to go down the General Medicine/General Practitioner pathway. That number has reduced from approximately 30% of young doctors to just 15%.

One important strategy to address this problem is the training/support/promotion of Nurse Practitioners. Nurse Practitioners are very similar to GPs - they can prescribe all manner of medications, conduct all manner of clinical investigations and implement all manner of treatment plans. The key difference is that Nurse Practitioners must show evidence (if they were ever audited or before the coroner) that they are practicing within their scope of practice.

It’s assumed, for example, given their extensive training, that GPs have studied diabetes and can treat and prescribe. Nurse Practitioners need to be able to prove it with documentation.

One area where Nurse Practitioners are of greatest value is in the Alcohol and Other Drugs sector, particularly supporting patients with Opiate Replacement Therapies like methadone, buprenorphine and injectable buprenorphine. These are treatments with a huge evidence-base improving health, increasing stability, reducing drug use and reducing injury and death.

And thousands of Victorians just can’t get access to a doctor to prescribe them.

Our Nurse Practitioner at First Step, Georgia Judd, has been an amazing addition to the team in recent months, bringing a wealth of experience, a collegial attitude (team spirit!), and a fabulous manner with clients. And we’re pretty sure she loves it here. Georgia can take all the time she needs with clients, work with the multi-disciplinary team and learn from over 100 years of GP experience in the building.

Our Nurse Practitioner program is funded by the South Eastern Melbourne Primary Health Network (SEMPHN) - the subsidy is essential because Nurse Practitioners cannot bill enough to cover their own wages. Long may SEMPHN continue to support this important work!

Patrick Lawrence
Chief Executive Officer