A World Beyond the Wards: Community and Primary Health Nursing

By Robbie Bedbrook 

When you’re training to be a nurse it’s hard to imagine life outside the four walls of the hospital. Almost all of your practical placements are on the wards and so many of your classes are assessing your skills and dedication to hospital-based nursing. And why not? The majority of nurses do work in hospitals and it’s an important job in a complicated environment that requires a lot of training.

But what about us nurses who just don’t find our feet in hospitals? I realised about halfway through university that the hospital was not for me. I couldn’t understand why my friends absolutely loved being on the wards and I didn’t. I began to panic; am I not meant to be a nurse? Have I chosen the wrong field?!

Thankfully for me, and for many others, there is a wonderfully diverse world that exists for nurses outside the hospital. This week marks the third annual Community and Primary Health Care Nursing Week (CPHCNW), which was started by the Australian College of Nursing (ACN). This week is designed to celebrate and raise awareness of the nurses who work outside the hospital system.

Image 1 CPHCNW Banner

There are endless possibilities to being a community or primary health care nurse. Areas such as general practice, community mental health, sexual health, justice health, health care in the home, refugee health, aged care and many more are in desperate need of passionate, skilled nurses. These areas are so important because for many patients it is their first point of contact with the healthcare system. Nurses in this field have an amazing opportunity to shape people’s health behaviours in a positive way.

Importantly community and primary health care nursing is becoming a necessity. We live in an ageing population with complex health needs as well as seeing an increase of patients with chronic illness. The public health and hospital systems are already overstretched and they are turning to community care to manage these patients. Community and primary health care nursing can lessen the burden on our hospitals, give individualised care with less time and resource constraints than hospitals and improve health outcomes of all Australians. And as if you needed more convincing: no shift work!

I work in general practice, often known as a practice nurse. A lot of people still believe that practice nursing is an easier option than hospital nursing however anyone who works within the full scope of practice nursing knows it is anything but easy! Practice nursing is a complex, challenging and incredibly rewarding area of specialty nursing practice. My day can include wound care, early childhood consults and immunisations, sexual health screening and counselling, travel health consults and immunisations, chronic illness management and many other clinical tasks.

Eva Shaw

More than that though I am a core member of the multidisciplinary team; my input and expertise are valued and sought-after in a way that I never experienced on the wards. I am also able to give input on policies that help the practice run, I am responsible for the management of the treatment room, recalling all our patients and other important administrative duties. I have been able to grow and up-skill as a nurse so much in such a short space of time and I really feel I am using all my knowledge and skills.

Practice nursing also led me one of my biggest achievements in my professional and personal life: Hot on Health. Hot on Health is a video-based platform that is designed to make health information easy to understand and accessible. It is only through my extremely diverse work in primary health care nursing that I was able to identify this need and have the flexibility to achieve this goal. (To read more about my journey to create Hot on Health check out my blog post on Nurse Uncut!)

Image 4 Hot on Health logo

So how do you get involved in community or primary health care nursing?

My first tip would be to visit APNA (Australian Primary Health Care Nursing Association); have a read of their definition of primary health care nursing, explore their website to discover more about this amazing area and take their quiz on My Nursing Future to see if working outside the hospital is right for you. I would encourage everyone to talk to nurses in this field, take a community health elective at uni or find the teachers who are working in these areas and start a conversation; they will offer some amazing insight and pointers!

Stay tuned all this week to UTS Health social media for all things community and primary health care nursing as well as a deeper look into my work and Hot on Health!

To sign off I will share with you my motto for Hot on Health and what I try teach all of my patients: “There is no health care without self-care.”


Robbie Bedbrook is a UTS Bachelor of Nursing graduate and avid blogger. Check out more of his work at www.hotonhealth.org.

Please note that all opinions in this article are that of the author and are not necessarily representative of the views of the UTS Faculty of Health.

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