After 20 years of nursing Jody Holmes is preparing for endorsement as a nurse practitioner to improve health services provided in the dialysis unit at Rosebud Hospital.
She has recently completed a Master of Nursing at Monash University’s Peninsula campus. Jody needed a Master’s level degree to become a nurse practitioner but didn’t expect the learning to be so challenging.
“I have been nursing for two decades so I thought I knew a lot, but it was a huge learning curve.”
As a nurse practitioner, Jody will be authorised to order diagnostic tests, interpret results, write prescriptions and manage health complications.
In 2008, the Rosebud Hospital was successful in obtaining funding from the Department of Health Services to develop a nurse practitioner model of care that would meet the gaps in health service for patients with end-stage renal disease on the Mornington Peninsula.
The unit had recently been upgraded to include nine dialysis chairs and two sessions of dialysis a day. However there is no on-site nephrology consultant (doctor who specialises in kidney diseases) so patients wait for weekly specialist visits to discuss health complications, test results or change their medication.
While the role of nurse practitioner developed in the US and UK about 20 years ago, it was introduced in Australia more recently in response to concerns about a shortage of doctors, particularly in rural and regional areas.
The first nurse practitioners in Victoria were endorsed in 2004.
Jody said the reluctance of many doctors to work away from major metropolitan areas had left regional areas such the Mornington Peninsula with a shortage of specialists required for high quality and timely medical treatment.
Jody studied off-campus, which allowed her to continue to work shifts four days a week. She said it was pretty hectic but “now I have a great sense of achievement and accomplishment.”
Communicating with academic staff and students online was particularly valuable. “It was easy to share ideas, critique each other’s work and share links to relevant articles,” she explained. “It was incredibly interactive and it really worked.”
In conjunction with her study Jody was mentored by the visiting nephrology consultant, attended conferences and completed industry training.
“Nurse practitioners are expected to engage in lifelong education so they are always up to date with research and developments in treatment.”
Once she is endorsed as a nurse practitioner – anticipated by the end of the year - Jody expects that her role will continue to develop as she gains confidence and experience.
She explained that while working independently, a nurse practitioner collaborates with doctors and other health professionals, regularly communicating test results or changes in medication.
“The result is a higher quality and more timely delivery of health care for patients,” she said. “At the end of the day, that is what it is all about.”