Objective.To examine the role of the registered nurse in remote and isolated areas of Queensland, the Northern Territory, South Australia and Western Australia; and to illustrate the impact of the burden of disease on nursing practice. Data sources.A literature search was undertaken using electronic databases and the grey literature (including policy documents, project reports and position descriptions). Data synthesis.The role of the nurse in remote areas is diverse, and varies according to the context of practice. Although some states and territories offer formal programs to prepare nurses for the role, it is unclear whether this is routinely provided. The burden of disease is higher in remote Australia, and although nurses work to reduce the burden, the need to provide primary care can be at the expense of primary health care. Conclusions.Whilst the nature of nursing practice is influenced by many factors, considerable agreement exists between states and territories around the role of the registered nurses in remote and isolated communities. The higher burden of disease in remote and isolated areas of Australia impacts on nursing practice, and nurses are uniquely placed to assist in reducing the burden of disease. Greater agreement around what constitutes ‘remote’ is needed. What is known about the topic?Many papers have reported on the difficulties encountered by registered nurses in remote and isolated practice; however, there is a dearth of information describing the role of registered nurses in remote or isolated Australian communities. What does this paper add?This review describes the diverse role of nurses and their role in addressing the burden of disease in remote and isolated Australia. Comparison between states and territories highlights differences in preparation for the role. What are the implications for practitioners?National agreement is needed around preparation for practice, conditions of work, and what constitutes ‘remote’. Greater utilisation of the nursing workforce in remote and isolated areas would assist in addressing the burden of disease.