Page 1873 - Week 06 - Thursday, 9 May 2013

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We have just under 5,000 nurses working across the ACT. The scope of the work is very diverse. They work in mental health. Yes, some work in the emergency department. But the health system is bigger than that. There is community health. There are nurses in drug and alcohol services, in women’s health and in aged care. The scope of work they undertake is very diverse. We have nurses that specialise in chronic disease management or population health. They will undertake health assessments, provide immunisations, provide care in relation to men’s health and provide wound management.

ACT Health employs 2,579 nurses out of a total workforce of 6,228, from the 2011-12 annual report. So you can see that they make up a considerable part of the ACT Health Directorate. One of the things I have learnt about the nurses in my time as health minister is that no one day is a normal day at work for a nurse. And they work under incredible pressure. Not only are they often responding to people who are unwell and dealing with their families, but the demands on their work and their work time have continued to grow year on year.

One of the areas that we are focused very heavily on at the moment is attracting and retaining nurses and midwives in the system. We have a number of new programs, graduate programs, for both enrolled and registered nurses and midwives. We have also implemented scholarship schemes for nurses to go on and access higher education. We have got return to practice programs for nurses and midwives re-entering the workforce. There is financial support for enrolled nurses upskilling qualifications in medication administration; there are travel scholarships for nurses and midwives attending interstate and overseas conferences; and there are clinical fellowship and nursing leadership grants. We also provide support for the inaugural nurse practitioner doctorate at the University of Canberra, where 14 nurse practitioners are currently enrolled.

There are new and emerging roles in nursing, and Mr Rattenbury mentioned some of these, around the scope of practice and being able to have career progression. Important roles like advanced practice nurses, nurse practitioners and advanced scope of practice for enrolled nurses are ensuring that we are able to offer nurses continued improvement and promotion through their career, should they undertake particular training.

In relation to the walk-in centre, the government is very proud of the work that the nurses do, and we believe it is important that it remains a nurse-led model. From its opening in May 2010 to March 2013, a total of 48,978 people attended the walk-in centre at the Canberra Hospital, and in the first nine months of this financial year almost 15,000 people presented to the walk-in centre. One hundred per cent of those were seen within four hours, which is the new national target in relation to emergency departments. So we have seen 1,600 people visiting the walk-in centre every month and being cared for by nurses. In March 2013 the median time for treatment from arrival was 19 minutes, and the feedback we are getting from people who are accessing the nurse-led walk-in centre is extremely positive.

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