Highly-skilled nurses say they are frustrated they have been locked out of the COVID-19 vaccination roll-out in Australia due to a government requirement

Highly-skilled nurses say they are frustrated they have been locked out of the COVID-19 vaccination roll-out in Australia due to a government requirement that they must be supervised in order to administer the vaccine.

Key points:

  • Nurse practitioners say they are frustrated by the requirement that they must be supervised
  • Under the federal government’s vaccine rollout, other health care providers — including pharmacists — can administer the vaccination
  • The Australian College of Nurse Practitioners says it has contacted the federal government with their concerns

Nurse practitioners undertake years of extra study and intense training to allow them to administer vaccinations and prescribe medications.

But under the federal government’s COVID-19 response, nurse practitioners can only give the coronavirus vaccination while being supervised by a general practitioner or “suitably qualified health professional”, while working in a private setting.A nurse wearing a face mask and latex gloves prepares to tap a syringe of a vaccine.

Australian College of Nurse Practitioners (ACNP) president Leanne Boase, who represents more than 2,000 members, said nurse practitioners working outside the public health system were not covered by the Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) for coronavirus vaccines.

“In the private sector, including rural and remote areas, nurse practitioners cannot access an MBS rebate,” Ms Boase said.

Under the federal government’s vaccine rollout, other health care providers — including pharmacists — can administer the vaccination.

“I think there’s a poor understanding of our [nurse practitioners] pathways,” Ms Boase said.

“We become expert registered nurses first, and we spend years getting experience and doing additional training, and only when we become very advanced, we then do a master’s degree to become a nurse practitioners.”

‘Working with hands held behind my back’

Cairns-based nurse practitioner Melanie Dunstan said the exclusion of health professionals like herself would delay access to the vaccination for rural and remote patients — some of the most vulnerable in the community.

Ms Dunstan said she has been administering vaccines for 12 years.

“Nurse practitioners are the highest level of nurses we have in Australia — we can work and do [it] independently with clients to provide care, ” Ms Dunstan said.

“I originally became a nurse practitioner because I wanted to be a one-stop shop when they are accessing care and to help alleviate the waits I would see in rural and very remote areas of Australia.

Ms Boase said the ACNP had contacted the federal government with their concerns.

“I have not had any feedback despite being very vocal and trying to communicate frequently on this issue,” Ms Boase said.

“Despite the fact we’re sitting here and waving our hand and saying, ‘hey, hey, we’re here, want to talk?’ — we’re just completely overlooked.”

The ABC has contacted the federal Department of Health for comment.

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