Queensland University of Technology (QUT) has joined forces with state health departments and interstate universities to test the effectiveness and quality of the nurse practitioner as an addition to the emergency department team.
“Between 2007 and 2009 we saw a 60 per cent increase in the number of nurse practitioners working in emergency departments throughout Australia but there has not yet been any robust research to test the benefit of these practitioners,” lead investigator Professor Glenn Gardner from QUT’s School of Nursing and Midwifery said.
The three-year study will involve a survey of around 150 hospitals across Australia, followed by in depth study of 56 emergency departments comparing the effectiveness of those with and without nurse practitioners in the team.
“Our new study will help inform health care planners about the effectiveness of the nurse practitioner service in the emergency department setting,” Professor Gardner said.
She said nurse practitioners were highly experienced specialists in their field with education at Masters level.
“Their introduction into emergency departments usually aims to improve waiting times and decrease the risk of patients leaving emergency departments without being seen,” Professor Gardner said.
“Nurse practitioners also provide care for specific patient groups in emergency departments such as the elderly, those with mental illness and others with special needs.
“They are not there to replace doctors but to enable emergency departments to extend the options available to meet patient needs. They have the experience, skill and education to carry out procedures and prescribe medication and, when necessary, to make referrals to other health practitioners.”
Professor Gardner said that the nurse practitioner could provide comprehensive assessment and treatment for some patients and send them home, rather than sending them back into the waiting room to re-join the queue for a doctor.
“Health service planners see this as a very real way to address some of the pressures that emergency departments around Australia are experiencing,” she said.
Professor Gardner said there were around 500 nurse practitioners Australia-wide, including 143 in Queensland.
The $777,000 research project will be funded in part by an Australian Research Council Linkage grant, and will be conducted by a multi-disciplinary research team comprising nursing, medical, public health and statistical experts.
Collaborating universities include Australian Catholic University, Deakin University and Curtin University. Industry Partners for the study will be the Centre for HealthCare Improvement and the Nursing and Midwifery Office Queensland, Queensland Health, and Chief Nursing Officer departments in the NSW Department of Health, Victorian Department of Health, SA Department of Health and WA Department of Health.
Media contact: Michaela Ryan, QUT media officer, 07 3138 4494 or firstname.lastname@example.org