What is primary health care nursing?

Primary health care is the first level of contact that individuals, families and communities have with the healthcare system. In Australia, this:

  • Incorporates personal care with health promotion, the prevention of illness and community development
  • Includes the interconnecting principles of equity, access, empowerment, community self-determination and inter-sectoral collaboration
  • Encompasses an understanding of the social, economic, cultural and political determinants of health

Grounded in their scope of practice, nurses provide socially appropriate, universally accessible, scientifically sound, first level care. They work independently and interdependently in teams to:

  • Give priority to those most in need and address health inequalities
  • Maximise community and individual self-reliance, participation and control
  • Ensure collaboration and partnership with other sectors to promote public health

Scope of practice

Scope of practice for nurses is determined by professional registration (i.e. registered nurse or enrolled nurse), endorsement (i.e. prescribing scheduled medicines by nurse practitioners), educational background, nursing experience and clinical  specialisation. 

A nurse can build their clinical and professional capabilities to expand their scope of practice through education and training to develop a broader skill set that remains within the legislated professional practice standards and competencies. 

An individual nurse’s scope of practice may vary considerably from that of another nurse.

Read Scope of practice | APNA Position Statement in Related Documents below.

What are the roles of a primary health care nurse?

A model of the roles of nurses is that their work may cover:

  • Health promotion
  • Illness prevention
  • Healthy ageing
  • Antenatal and postnatal care
  • Child and family health nursing
  • Treatment and care of sick people
  • Rehabilitation and palliation
  • Community development
  • Population and public health
  • Education and research
  • Policy development and advocacy

Research within the Australian general practice setting describes the following roles of primary health care nurses; patient carer, organiser, quality controller and improvement agent, problem solver, educator, and agent of connectivity.

The relevant importance of these roles will depend on both the nursing context and the accountabilities and responsibilities of the nursing position.

In what settings do primary health care nurses work?

Primary health care nurses work in a range of settings, each sharing the characteristic that they are a part of the first level of contact with the health system.

In Australia, those settings can include:

  • Community settings including the community controlled health services, the community health sector and roles within social service settings
  • General practice
  • Residential aged care
  • Domiciliary settings in the home, custodial/detention settings, boarding houses and outreach to homeless people
  • Educational settings including preschool, primary and secondary school, vocational and tertiary education settings
  • Occupational settings, occupational health and safety and workplace nursing
  • Informal and unstructured settings including ad hoc and Good Samaritan roles in daily life, like sports settings and community groups.

Grow your career, visit mynursingfuture.com.au 

Ever wonder what it's like to work outside the four walls of a hospital?

Explore the rewarding and challenging world of nursing in primary health care and why this workforce is vital to the health of Australia.

Visit mynursingfuture.com.au

Also in this section

Is primary health care nursing right for you?

Is primary health care nursing right for you? Our 10 minute quiz will help you identify how your interests, strengths and goals might set you up for a great career in primary health care

Aged care nursing

APNA supports aged care nurses—advice, education, insurance and advocacy to name a few—so that you can enjoy a rewarding career.

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