Aims and objectives: To explore the nature of collaboration between registered nurses and general practitioners in Australian general practice.
Background: There is international recognition that collaboration between health professionals can improve care coordination, enhance health outcomes, optimise the work environment and reduce healthcare costs. However, effective collaboration requires a clear understanding of each team member's role.
Design: A qualitative approach guided by Naturalistic Inquiry was used to elicit and interpret participant narratives.
Methods: Eight general practitioners and fourteen registered nurses working in general practice were purposefully recruited. Data were collected via individual, semi-structured face-to-face interviews during February to May 2015. Interviews were audio recorded and transcribed verbatim. Data were analysed using thematic analysis.
Results: Data revealed three overarching themes. This paper presents the data for the overarching theme 'Understanding the general practice registered nurse's role'. Many general practitioner participants lacked clarity around the role and scope of practice of the registered nurse. At the same time, nursing participants often articulated their role as an assistant rather than as an independent health professional. This limited collaboration and the nurses' role within the team. Collaboration was enhanced when general practitioners actively sought an understanding of the registered nurses scope of practice.
Conclusion: Clarifying the nurses' role promotes collaboration and supports nurses to work to the full extent of their practice. This is important in terms of optimising the nurses' role within the team and reinforcing their professional identity.