The Kowanyama Narrative; the adventure of developing a relevant nursing workforce

Anne-Marie Scully


Kowanyama PHCC had to rethink its nurse workforce; pose the question “what is in the best interest of the communities?” So in Kowanyama we identified the need for a transformative nursing workforce because we were not meeting the community needs and not impacting their health status. We acknowledged that “nurses are a linchpin for health reform and will be vital to implementing systemic changes in the delivery of care.”

This is the narrative about our experiences in developing a nursing workforce for Kowanyama, a community of approximately 1,200 in Far North Queensland (FNQ). We needed a nursing workforce that reflected the identified needs of the community and so we changed the nursing mix and, for example, now have registered nurses and a new renal role.

We posed many questions and we know, for example, that the Kowanyama community benefits from a longer stay by nurses but, like many isolated places it can be hard to stay. Many nurses only come for short periods. We wanted to change that; so we asked what a resilient nurse can manage. What does a capability framework look like for Kowanyama isolated practice? Can we grow registered nurses in community? What other knowledge/s do we need?

The nursing profession also need to take a lead in supporting the transformation of the isolated workforce because they are the preeminent workforce and will remain so.  What is the role of CRANAplus, ANMU and ACN as national representatives of the profession? What role can they play in supporting a transformative workforce in isolated practice?

Has the profession been innovative and creative enough….because there is a significant need in isolated primary healthcare centres for a transformative nursing workforce model; and, we are not closing the gap in a significant way, not achieving the targets agreed at COAG.

This Kowanyama narrative is about a journey, an exploration, of our trial and error, successes and challenges but results in the beginning of a strategy that works for community and we can describe the workforce which will go some way to addressing the identified health needs of the community. It has been quite a journey, and is ongoing…..we want to share it with you, hear feedback and most of all let’s truly debate the isolated community’s workforce.


Anne-Marie SCULLY

RN,  RM,  Ba App Sci, Cert 4 Grief and Bereavement,  Masters

A long time nurse with an interest in health policy, workforce planning and safe practice. I am undertaking a PhD in policy analysis and remain curious about contemporary practice and how it meets the community’s needs. I enjoy debate and discussion, translation of evidence into practice,  have been the Chair of the National Nursing Organisation, a member of the Australian Pharmaceutical Advisory Council (APAC) and have an enduring interest  in health economics and impact on the ability of the nursing profession to practice safely.