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A Nurse Practitioner (NP) is a registered nurse with experience and expertise to diagnose and treat people of all ages with a variety of acute or chronic health conditions. The NP is the most senior clinical nurse in the health care system.
A rheumatology NP is someone that has extensive rheumatology experience and has undertaken the training detailed below. This allows them to work with patients with many different rheumatological conditions.
To become an NP, the registered nurse has to complete a Masters degree in Nurse Practitioner Studies. To be eligible to complete this degree, they must have at least 3 years full time experience at an advanced nursing level in their chosen speciality; in this case, rheumatology.
Like the rheumatology nurse, the NP has to be registered with the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia (NMBA). They also have to be endorsed by the NMBA to be able to work in this role. In order to maintain this registration and endorsement, the NP has to undertake extra hours of professional development. This is to maintain, improve and broaden their knowledge, expertise and capability to provide safe and effective care.
NPs provide high quality, patient-centred care working in collaboration with the rheumatologist using an advanced model of care. This includes taking histories, performing physical examinations, interpreting results and developing a treatment plan. They are able to order and interpret X-rays/scans and other diagnostic tests and pathology, refer patients to other specialists and provide prescriptions and access to some PBS medicines.
The rheumatology NP does not work in isolation. This is a collaborative role designed to work alongside the rheumatologist to achieve many benefits for patients.
You can usually see a rheumatology NP at any time. Your GP may be able to refer direct to the NP or you may see the NP in the rheumatology clinic as part of your care. The NP role has been proven to improve access to treatment and provide cost effective care with high levels of patient satisfaction.
Unfortunately, there are only a small number of rheumatology NPs in Australia. They can work in both public and private systems alongside the rheumatologist. Please ask your rheumatologist if they have a NP that works with them.
Read the report; Rheumatology Nurses: Adding value to arthritis care at the following link:
Read the Report