The nurse practitioner (NP) is a relatively new role in the Australian health care setting. The first NP was authorised in 2000 and since then the role has flourished across areas as diverse as rural and remote, aged care and neonatal intensive care. The NP role in Australia is embedded within legislation to formalise the process of regulation, training and accreditation and ensure the NP title is protected.
There are fewer than 20 Neonatal NP (NNP) working across Australia. In South Australia there are five NNP who work within the continuum of neonatal care, a unique role that encompasses care of neonates in the Intensive and Special Care Baby Units, on the postnatal wards, and at high risk deliveries. The role has provided an opportunity to develop a career path as a clinician, a nursing leader and mentor, educator and researcher. NNP's contribute to a more stable workforce where traditionally there has been a high turnover of registrars, while the combination of a NNP/registrar workforce compliments the differences in each others roles.
However there are still challenges and barriers facing NNP in South Australia. Currently there is little provision for recurrent funding for the education of new NNP's, and an ad hoc approach to succession planning, ongoing professional development, continuing education and non-clinical time for NNP's already in the role. Examining and comparing international trends particularly in the UK where NNP's have long been established may offer some solutions.
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