nurse practitioner David Heath

Bendigo Health first introduced nurse practitioners into its health service more than a decade ago, but the chance to manage patients more holistically is what attracted urology and oncology nurse practitioner David Heath to embark on a career shift.

Having left nursing in 2012 to work in paramedicine, Mr Heath returned to Bendigo Health as a prostate cancer nurse.

“The role progressed from just a prostate cancer nurse to include bladder and kidney cancer,” Mr Heath said.

A nurse practitioner for three years, Mr Heath can now perform transrectal prostate biopsies and is about to start the procedures in theatre at Bendigo Health – the first nurse practitioner to do so in Australia.

Bendigo Health’s chief nursing and midwifery officer David Rosaia said nurse practitioners offer care from the point of contact to the end of care.

“Our nurse practitioner roles supplement existing health care and don’t take away from the work of other health professionals,” Mr Rosaia said.

“A lot of nurse practitioners pick up roles that a lot of the junior medical workforce will undertake, allowing senior doctors to spend time on complex cases.”

Nurse practitioners undertake further study via a Masters degree in a specialty area, with Bendigo Health employing respiratory, diabetes, oncology, urology and palliative care nurse practitioners.

“By 2021, I’d love to have 20 nurse practitioners at Bendigo Health because they have such an important role,” Mr Rosaia said.

“People have to be passionate and have lots of drive to do this work and I think the nurse practitioner model could work really well in isolated parts of Australia,” he said.

Mr Heath said that autonomy and making a difference make his role rewarding.

“The qualification provides a great deal of autonomy, but it allows me to work in a supportive team in the hospital and specifically in the urology unit.”

A recent Medicare Benefits Schedule review recommended nurse practitioners be used more widely across the health system.

The review was established in 2015, with the government now considering the recommending and conducting further consultation.