The complexities of defining nurse practitioner scope of practice in the Australian context

Collegian. 2016;23(1):129-42. doi: 10.1016/j.colegn.2014.09.009.


Aims: To explore the legislative and regulatory constraints that defines nurse practitioner scope of practice within the Australian context.

Background: Nurse practitioners have been endorsed to practice in Australia for over 13 years. However, despite this lengthy period, there still remains confusion amongst newly endorsed nurse practitioners and their employers as to what determines the scope of their practice in Australia.

Design: A review of available policy and regulatory documents related to the Australian operational requirements for nurse practitioner scope of practice cited within or referred to by the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia.

Data sources: Data were collected over a 2-month period in 2013. This utilized the current standards, codes and guidelines cited by the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia related to scope of practice and nurse practitioner, as well as legislation and regulation referred to in relation to nurse practitioner practice. Information was also obtained through government health and professional organization websites. All information in the literature regarding current and past status, and nomenclature of advanced practice nursing was considered relevant. Implications for nursing: Providing a means of interpreting the determinants of nurse practitioner scope of practice within Australia.

Conclusions: The factors that determine nurse practitioner scope of practice, education, clinical experience, and competence leading to endorsement, are straightforward. However, the context of clinical practice, including jurisdictional restrictions, is major barriers to the expression of nurse practitioner scope of practice. These restrictions, although not insurmountable, continue to hinder nurse practitioners from practicing to their full scope of practice.

MeSH terms

  • Australia
  • Clinical Competence / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Clinical Competence / standards*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Midwifery / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Midwifery / standards*
  • Nurse Practitioners / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Nurse Practitioners / standards*
  • Nurse's Role
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic / standards*
  • Pregnancy