There are staff shortages nation-wide in residential aged care, which is only predicted to grow as the population ages in Australia. The aged care staff shortage is compounded in rural and remote areas where the health service workforce overall experiences difficulties in recruitment and retention. There is evidence that nurse practitioners fill important service gaps in aged care and rural health care but also evidence that barriers exist in introducing this extended practice role.
In 2018, 58 medical and direct care staff participated in interviews and focus groups about the implementation of an older person’s nurse practitioner (OPNP) in aged care. All 58 interviewees had previously or currently worked in an aged care setting where the OPNP delivered services.
The interviews were analysed using May’s implementation theory framework to better understand staff perceptions of barriers and enablers when an OPNP was introduced to the workplace.
The major perceived barrier to capacity of implementing the OPNP was a lack of material resources, namely funding of the role given the OPNP’s limited ability to self-fund through access to the Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS). Staff perceived that benefits included timely access to care for residents, hospital avoidance and improved resident health outcomes.
Despite staff perceptions of more timely access to care for residents and improved outcomes, widespread implementation of the OPNP role may be hampered by a poor understanding of the role of an OPNP and the legislative requirement for a collaborative arrangement with a medical practitioner as well as limited access to the MBS.
This study was not a registered trial.