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Nursing in a different world: Remote area nursing as a specialist–generalist practice area

McCullough, K., Bayes, S., Whitehead, L., Williams, A. and Cope, V.ORCID: 0000-0002-4528-4268 (2022) Nursing in a different world: Remote area nursing as a specialist–generalist practice area. Australian Journal of Rural Health .

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Remote area nurses provide primary health care services to isolated communities across Australia. They manage acute health issues, chronic illness, health promotion and emergency responses. This article discusses why their generalist scope of practice should be formally recognised as a specialist nursing practice area.


Constructivist grounded theory, using telephone interviews (n = 24) with registered nurses and nurse practitioners.


Primary health care clinics, in communities of 150–1500 residents across Australia.


A total of 24 nurses participated in this study.


Nurses' perceived their clinical knowledge and skill as insufficient for the advanced, generalist, scope of practice in the remote context, especially when working alone. Experience in other settings was inadequate preparation for working in remote areas. Knowledge and skill developed on the job, with formal learning, such as nurse practitioner studies, extending the individual nurse's scope of practice to meet the expectations of the role, including health promotion.


Remote area nursing requires different knowledge and skills from those found in any other nursing practice setting. This study supports the claim that remote area nursing is a specialist–generalist role and presents a compelling case for further examination of the generalist education and support needs of these nurses. Combined with multidisciplinary collaboration, developing clinical knowledge and skill across the primary health care spectrum increased the availability of health resources and subsequently improved access to care for remote communities. Further research is required to articulate the contemporary scope of practice of remote area nurses to differentiate their role from that of nurse practitioners.

Item Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation(s): Nursing
Publisher: John Wiley & Sons Australia, Ltd on behalf of National Rural Health Alliance Ltd.
Copyright: © 2022 The Authors.
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