Open Access Open Badges Research article

Australian nurses in general practice, enabling the provision of cervical screening and well women’s health care services: a qualitative study

Jane Mills1*, Jennifer Chamberlain-Salaun1, Leane Christie2, Margot Kingston3, Elise Gorman4 and Caroline Harvey5

Author Affiliations

1 School of Nursing, Midwifery & Nutrition, James Cook University, Cairns Campus, Cairns, QLD, 4878, Australia

2 Queensland Cervical Screening Program, Queensland Health, Herston, QLD, 4029, Australia

3 Sexual Health & HIV Service, Queensland Health, Brisbane, QLD, 4000, Australia

4 General Practice Queensland, Brisbane, QLD, 4001, Australia

5 Family Planning Queensland, 100 Alfred Street, Fortitude Valley, QLD, 4006, Australia

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BMC Nursing 2012, 11:23  doi:10.1186/1472-6955-11-23

Published: 12 November 2012



The role of Australian general practice nurses (PNs) has developed exponentially since the introduction of service based funding in 2005. In particular, their role has expanded to include cervical screening and well women’s health care services provided under the supervision of a general practitioner (GP). While previous research identifies barriers to the provision of these services, this study sought to investigate enablers for nurse led care in this area.


A number of grounded theory methods including constantly comparing data, concurrent data collection and analysis and theoretical sampling are utilised in this qualitative, exploratory study. A purposive sample of PNs who completed the required program of education in order to provide cervical screening and well women’s health care services was recruited to the study. Data is presented in categories, however a limitation of the study is that a fully integrated grounded theory was unable to be produced due to sampling constraints.


Four enablers for the implementation of a change in the PN role to include cervical screening and well women’s health checks are identified in this study. These enablers are: GPs being willing to relinquish the role of cervical screener and well women’s health service provider; PNs being willing to expand their role to include cervical screening and well women’s health services; clients preferring a female practice nurse to meet their cervical screening and well women’s health needs; and the presence of a culture that fosters interprofessional teamwork. Seven strategies for successfully implementing change from the perspective of PNs are also constructed from the data. This study additionally highlights the lack of feedback on smear quality provided to PNs cervical screeners and well women’s health service providers.


The influence of consumers on the landscape of primary care service delivery in Australia is of particular note in this study. Developing interprofessional teams that maximise each health care provider’s role will be fundamental to comprehensive service delivery in the future.