Exploring the Development of Australian General Practice Nursing: Where We Have Come from and Where to from Here?
Halcomb, Elizabeth J., Davidson, Patricia M., Patterson, Elizabeth, Contemporary Nurse : a Journal for the Australian Nursing Profession
Despite the pivotal roles played by general practice nurses in health care delivery in the United Kingdom (UK) and New Zealand (NZ), the role of Australian practice nurses is much less apparent in the health care system (Halcomb & Davidson 2006). Whilst professional nursing organisations, such as the Royal College of Nursing, Australia (RCNA) and the Australian Practice Nurses Association (APNA) have demonstrated leadership in professional development, practice nurses are still not well represented within local Divisions of General Practice (Kalucy, Hann & Whaites 2004), or in discussions of general practice issues (National Expert Committee on Standards for General Practices 2005). Given the current critical stage of role development, it is important that Australian practice nurses have a clear understanding of the development of their specialty and are also able to identify strategic future directions.
A significant body of exploratory and descriptive research has been published by Australian authors to date reporting on practice nurse demographics, characteristics and consumer perceptions (Appleby et al. 1999; Armstrong 2001; Australian Divisions of General Practice Ltd 2001; Bonawit & Watson 1996; Cheek et al. 2002; Halcomb et al. 2007b; Halcomb & Davidson 2006; Le Sueur & Barnard 1993; Linn 1969; Lockwood & Maguire 2000; Patterson 2000, 2003; Patterson, Del Mar & Najman 1999a,b,2000; Patterson & McMurray 2003; Vincent, Hogan & Sweeney 2001 ; Watts et al. 2004; Whitecross 2000; Whitecross 1999; Willis, Condon & Litt 1998, 2000a,b).This literature has previously been extensively reviewed and critically analysed (Halcomb et al. 2004, 2005, 2006). Whilst such literature provides significant evidence of the professional development trajectory of the specialty many of these papers report findings from the period immediately before health system changes began to fuel rapid development of the specialty. Further, the published literature is often the domain of academic researchers and does not always reflect the attitudes, values and beliefs of practicing clinicians. In addition to the delay to publication experienced in many scientific journals, many conference proceedings are often not translated to peer-reviewed publications. As is the case in many specialty areas, papers presented at conferences, both as podium presentations and posters, often fail to progress to publication for a range of reasons including resource constraints, author experience, time and the perceived value of publication (Hopewell & Clarke 2001). In spite of these limitations, the contents of conferences, particularly free papers and poster presentations, reflect the contemporaneous issues facing clinicians and researchers (Pellecchia 1999). Analysis of this discourse and content is important in identifying contemporary trends and directions. We have previously described the content of the first two Australian General Practice Nurse conferences (2003 and 2004)(Halcomb et al. 2006). This process has been useful in documenting trends in a period of accelerated growth and development of the specialty. This paper aims to document the progress of role and issue development through a content analysis of the proceedings of the four Australian General Practice Nurse conferences held to date (2003-2006).
The Royal College of Nursing Australia (RCNA) is a peak professional body for Australian nurses, including special interest groups (Royal College of Nursing Australia 2007). Since 2003, the RCNA has conducted four annual National General Practice Nurse conferences. In addition to the authors attending these events and collecting field notes, the final conference proceedings were critically analysed using content analysis techniques. This process was conducted by the primary author (EJH) and then verified by a second author (PMD or EP) to enhance the validity and reliability of the analysis. …