Nurses representing the profession’s diverse range of specialities and from every state and territory have helped set the policy agenda for 2018 and beyond.

The Australian College of Nursing’s Policy Summit brought together over 80 nurses to discuss the issues the profession wants addressed and the solutions it most immediately believes should be pursued.

“Over half of the health care workforce are nurses,” Australian College of Nursing CEO, Adjunct Professor Kylie Ward explained. “Nurses spend time with patients in every health care setting. Nurses advocate for patients when they are unable to advocate for themselves, making sure our community gets the care and support they need.

“Because we are so closely connected to the core of care delivery, and because nurses have such an important role as advocates it is essential nurses have a greater say in how the health system is structured and funded to ensure the best health outcomes for Australians.

“Just over 12 months ago, we asked nurses to tell us which aspects of the health system they saw as priorities for improvement. They identified four priority areas and these resulted in the creation of our inaugural Policy Chapters.”

The four Policy Chapters established by the Australian College of Nursing are: Workforce Sustainability; Healthy Ageing; Chronic Disease; and End of Life Care.

The aim of the Policy Chapters are for nursing leaders and experts to inform, change and guide future directions of health care through collaboration.

The Summit brought nurse leaders from around Australia to work on these policy chapters to determine the first steps they want the profession to take to improve policy and decision-making at a national, state and profession level.

“As a community, our needs and expectations change quickly and it is important health policy keeps pace and nurses have a real voice in decision making,” Adjunct Professor Ward said. “For example, we now have voluntary assisted dying laws in this country, when we didn’t six months ago.

As nurses are at the absolute coal face of health care, they are exceptionally well placed to understand and see shifts in care needs and help Australia respond in the most effective manner.”

Participants at the Nursing Policy Summit agreed that over the next 12 months the profession must advocate for:

  • Innovative practices that may aid in better management and prevention of chronic disease and the care of people with chronic conditions;
  • Support the regulation of the third tier Assistants in Nursing (however named) to improve patient safety
  • Practical implications for nurses of the introduction of assisted dying legislation;
  • Establish minimum guidelines for nurses caring for older Australians.

“The Policy Chapters will now develop, in consultation with the wider profession, key initiatives to achieve these aspirations and advocate for their introduction,” Adjunct Professor Ward said.

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