Building the new primary care nursing workforce

The Primary Care Nurse Transition Program is for new graduate registered nurses across Australia. Applications for 2021 close on on the 30th October 2020.

PCCS developed the Primary Care Nurse Transition Program as an innovative solution to help address the current shortage of nurses in primary care, the shortage of nursing placements in existing graduate transition programs and the shortage of nurses in rural and regional Australia.

The general practice nursing workforce is ageing with most nurses now in their 50s (nearly 41% of registered nurses and 46% of enrolled nurses). This current workforce is moving towards retirement over the next five to 10 years and it is estimated that by 2025 there will be an overall shortage of 110,000 nurses across Australia.

Primary health care nursing is an underdeveloped and underutilised resource in Australia. There is great potential for improving the health care system by enhancing the role of nurses in primary health care.

Implementing the Primary Care Nurse Transition Program aligns with current Department of Health priorities to support workforce development and training in general practice.

Improve outcomes for patients with chronic health conditions, reduce demand on tertiary care services, and over time reduce acute presentations and costs arising from long term conditions
Develop primary care capacity
Support the development of a premier primary care nursing workforce with diverse skills, a broad scope of practice and expanding career pathway options
Address workforce shortages

Program benefits for GPs

• Increased availability of practitioner time
• More time to implement patient-centred care
• Nurses equipped with specific skills to deal with multiple chronic and complex conditions
• Improved coordination of care
• Increase in completed cycles of care
• Improved chronic disease management
• Improved patient health outcomes.

Program benefits for patients

• Improved capability to self-manage
• Improved health literacy and health behaviours
• Improved compliance with recommended treatment
• More satisfied with their healthcare journey
• Greater access to illness prevention and health promotion strategies.

Program benefits for practice nurses

• Nurses currently working in general practice have been enthusiastic towards undertaking a mentoring role with student nurses on clinical placements
• Nurses working in rural areas have identified positive outcomes associated with undertaking a preceptor role, including a sense of personal achievement and opportunities for development
• Increased job satisfaction, facilitating the retention of nurses currently working in general practice as this role becomes part of a defined career pathway.

Demand for a graduate transition program

Findings from a national survey show that 97% of students agreed that learning about the role of primary health care nurses during their degree was moderately to extremely important. More than 22% of final year nursing students expressed their intention to enter PHC on graduation (93% educationally; 87% via clinical placements).

The majority of students had been exposed to primary health care nursing during their degree.

The issues facing graduate nurses considering a primary care nursing career path include:

  • The lack of a comprehensive educational framework for nurses working in general practice
  • Clearly defined career framework
  • Agreement on models of practice and the role of primary health care nurses as part of a multi-disciplinary team
  • Limited access to, or uptake of, post-graduate education relevant to primary health care.

What the Primary Care Nurse Transition Program provides

The current strategies aimed at increasing the numbers of primary health care nurses include retaining the existing workforce and supporting the transition of experienced registered nurses from the acute care sector.

The Primary Care Nurse Transition Program provides:

  • A structured and standardised approach which ensures consistency in training, ongoing education and support provided to participating new graduates and existing primary health care nurses
  • Alignment with the current structure and function of general practice, yet is flexible enough to accommodate delivery in a variety of settings
  • Possible expansion to include transition to primary care practice for nurses at any stage of their careers and to primary and community care practitioners who can support positive outcomes in general practice (e.g. pharmacists, psychologists, etc).

Expected outcomes

Through the Primary Care Nurse Transition Program, PCCS will assist to deliver a skilled and sustainable primary health care nursing workforce by:

  • Increasing the number of graduate nurses choosing to work in primary health care
  • Meeting the demand for an increased number of supported placements and employment opportunities for graduate nurses
  • Improving the role and recognition of nurses working in primary care as a specialty within its own right
  • Maximising the use of primary health care nurses within their scope of practice
  • Improving the retention of nurses currently working in general practice by supporting their role as preceptors, and developing a defined career pathway

All these outcomes can contribute towards longer term goals of making primary health care nursing a sustainable and viable career option, enabling better access to primary care services, particularly in rural and regional areas, leading to better chronic disease management, reduction of hospitalisations and overall costs to the health system.

About Us

Our role in the program: PCCS

  • Undertake a national level eligibility, application and selection process to generate a pool of successful graduate nurse candidates from which PHNs can select and place within their regions
  • Provide standardised guidelines, program resources and operational materials to enable consistency and sustainability of delivery through PHNs nationally
  • Develop marketing and communications to assist PHNs to deliver the program and reduce duplication across regions
  • Provide coaching and support for PHNs to establish and implement their programs including recruitment of Primary Care Nurse Transition Program Coordinators, recruitment of graduate nurses from a national pool of pre-selected candidates, provision of access to resources and opportunities for networking, diffusion of innovation and shared learning
  • National level stakeholder engagement

Role of the PHNs in the program delivery

PHNs establish and deliver the program within their regions and will act in a capacity similar to current general practice regional training providers, facilitated by employed Primary Care Nurse Transition Coordinators. The Coordinators will administer the program against standardised guidelines and program resources developed by PCCS.

  • Primary Care Nurse Transition Coordinators:
    Facilitate, coordinate and deliver the clinical education for new graduate nurses
  • Ensure that new graduate nurses receive high quality clinical learning experiences that contribute to their formative development
  • Provide mentorship and support for existing primary health care nurses about the educational needs of the graduate nurses
  • Promote the Program among local General Practices and meet regularly with staff in each practice
  • Act as intermediary between participating General Practices and PCCS for information sharing and evaluation of the Program.