Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Title

Australian Journal of Rural Health




School of Nursing and Midwifery


This project was financially supported by the West Australian Department of Health and an Australian Postgraduate Award. Open access publishing facilitated by Edith Cowan University, as part of the Wiley - Edith Cowan University agreement via the Council of Australian University Librarians.


McCullough, K., Bayes, S., Whitehead, L., Williams, A., & Cope, V. (2022). Nursing in a different world: Remote area nursing as a specialist–generalist practice area. Australian Journal of Rural Health. Advance online publication.



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.



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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

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