How the NP and RN-led ATC in a small rural hospital is fulfilling the needs of their local community

Ms Jodie Cameron1, Ms Michelle  Cruse1

1Southern NSW Local Health District, Pambula District Hospital, Australia


Across Australia, many rural health regions are facing the dilemma of providing safe high quality health services to their populations in the wake of hospital downgrades and/or the loss of medical practitioners in rural small hospitals. Evidence, and service description supporting or describing the implementation and outcomes of Nurse Practitioner services in Australian rural small hospitals with no on-site medical staff is lacking. In addition, public health policy to close or downgrade small hospitals and concentrate services in main centres often causes community angst and significant hardship in rural areas where people have previously relied on their local community hospital and GP services to provide for their health needs.

This presentation describes the first 6 months of data post successful addition of Nurse Practitioners to a nurse led Assessment and Treatment Centre at a small downgraded NSW rural hospital. With no doctor on site or available on call, and with a limited Scope of Practice for the RN-led service, the addition of NPs has improved ATC patient numbers, improved community confidence, filled a service gap between overloaded local GP services and the regional hospital ED, and has significantly reduced the load on the regional hospital by reducing transfers and presentations, particularly important in periods of high tourist activity.

To date the service has demonstrated safe, cost effective, community based care and is proving to be an excellent alternative to GP or ED presentation, including collaboration with the GPs and ED to co-manage their scheduled re-presentation patients. There is potential for growth and development for the RNs to further increase their scope and work satisfaction, and provides a potential training pathway for aspiring NPs. The success of this service has positive implications for many smaller rural and remote services needing innovative solutions for provision of safe and cost effective care.