Open Access Research article

A spatial analysis of the expanding roles of nurses in general practice

Christopher Pearce1*, Sally Hall2, Christine Phillips2, Kathryn Dwan3, Rachael Yates4 and Bonnie Sibbald5

Author Affiliations

1 Director of Research, Inner Eastern Melbourne Medicare Local and Adjunct Associate Professor, Monash University, Melbourne, Australia

2 Academic Unit of General Practice and Community Health, Australian National University Medical School, Canberra, ACT, Australia

3 Australian Primary Health Care Research Institute, Australian National University, Acton, ACT, 2601, Australia

4 Australian General Practice Network, Manuka, ACT, Australia

5 National Centre for Primary Care Research Development Centre, Manchester University, Manchester, UK

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BMC Nursing 2012, 11:13  doi:10.1186/1472-6955-11-13

Published: 7 August 2012



Changes to the workforce and organisation of general practice are occurring rapidly in response to the Australian health care reform agenda, and the changing nature of the medical profession. In particular, the last five years has seen the rapid introduction and expansion of a nursing workforce in Australian general practices. This potentially creates pressures on current infrastructure in general practice.


This study used a mixed methods, ‘rapid appraisal’ approach involving observation, photographs, and interviews.


Nurses utilise space differently to GPs, and this is part of the diversity they bring to the general practice environment. At the same time their roles are partly shaped by the ways space is constructed in general practices.


The fluidity of nursing roles in general practice suggests that nurses require a versatile space in which to maximize their role and contribution to the general practice team.

General practice; Private practice nursing; Physicians office; Spatial analysis; Skill mix