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CRANAcast taster: Episode 15 with Di Thornton

7 Apr 2023

In episode 15 of CRANAcast, CRANAplus Fellow, registered nurse, and endorsed nurse practitioner from the Murray-Mallee region in SA, Di Thornton, shares her views on taking an “outside the box” approach to filling gaps in our current healthcare system and provides insight into her world of owning and operating a nurse practitioner-led health clinic.

Nurse-prac­ti­tion­er value 

Di: Nurse prac­ti­tion­ers are high­ly trained. We’ve got Mas­ters degree; a min­i­mum of three years of post-grad­u­ate expe­ri­ence, but I think you would find most nurse prac­ti­tion­ers have way more than three years of post-grad­u­ate expe­ri­ence by the time they decide to take up the role.

You also have to have a min­i­mum of 5,000 clin­i­cal hours at advanced prac­tice before you can even be endorsed.

So, you go to Uni and you do your Mas­ters and you pass but that doesn’t guar­an­tee that you will become an endorsed nurse prac­ti­tion­er who can actu­al­ly work and get a provider num­ber. You have to pro­vide evi­dence to AHPRA that you meet the clin­i­cal criteria.

We’re able to pre­scribe, and order blood tests, X‑rays and ultra­sounds. We’re able to able to inter­pret the data that comes back from those tests, and we’re able to treat peo­ple accordingly.

Most of us in rur­al and remote areas are very good at man­ag­ing chron­ic con­di­tions because there are lots of chron­ic con­di­tions in rur­al and remote areas – as well as your nor­mal flus, cuts, and any­thing else that walks through the door.

New fel­lows Wendy Can­non (2nd across), Kel­lie Kerin (cen­tre), and Di Thorn­ton (4th across) at the 2022 CRANAplus Conference.

Work­ing togeth­er to fill the gaps

Di: I think it’s time the Aus­tralian health sys­tem real­ly looked out­side the box to how things can be done dif­fer­ent­ly, while still meet­ing the needs of the com­mu­ni­ties in rur­al and remote areas. 

We know what the sta­tis­tics are like for our com­mu­ni­ties: the health out­comes are low­er in rur­al and remote areas because of the lack of access and time­ly access to appoint­ments and spe­cial­ist care. 

I’m so pas­sion­ate that [nurse prac­ti­tion­ers] are part of the solu­tion. We’re not the answer to it − we need GPs. 

I wouldn’t be where I am, and the stream­lin­ing of our prac­tice wouldn’t have been as smooth, with­out hav­ing [a trav­el­ling GP] onboard to be able to hand­ball things to and refer to when things are beyond my scope of practice. 

We don’t want to be mav­er­icks; we don’t want to be sep­a­rate from the sys­tem as it cur­rent­ly stands. And we cer­tain­ly don’t want to be at arm’s length to GPs, they’re our colleagues. 

We need one anoth­er to make the sys­tem work, and for it to work for our clients.

Click here to lis­ten to the full episode, or search for CRANAcast on Spo­ti­fy or Apple Pod­casts. Click here to read more about the recent announce­ment of $11.7 mil­lion in gov­ern­ment fund­ing towards the employ­ment of 20 nurse prac­ti­tion­ers (NPs) in West­ern Aus­tralia for two years.