Press Release: Expanded roles for nurses can tackle health care availability and quality problems


The international nursing conference on Advanced Nursing Practice: Expanding access and improving healthcare outcomes starts today in Helsinki. The conference is looking at the improvements advanced practice nursing* (or APN) brings to the availability and results in the care and treatment of patients. The conference has attracted some 740 participants from over 40 countries.

Finnish Nurses Association president Merja Merasto is not surprised at the interest the conference.

“Finland is not alone in wrestling with problems to do with the quality and availability of health care services. There are many new forms of working being developed in different countries, where specialist nurses take on broader responsibilities for patient treatment."

As many and 15 – 20 per cent of patients who see doctors can instead be referred to nurses. Nurses are able to have more responsibilities in long-term follow up patient care, and this means that the resources of health centres can be used more effectively.

According to Finnish Minister for Transport and Local Government Paula Risikko, who will speak at the opening of the Conference, Finland now has an excellent opportunity to develop the appropriate division of labour for patient care.

“In developing social and health care services, we should boldly draw on the skills of specialist nurses. There is ample scope for this in our legislation, and the experiences we have already gained are positive,” says Risikko.

Untapped possibilities
Professor Denise Bryant-Lukosius, keynote speaker on Monday, the first day of the conference, estimates that the pressure in various countries for reforming health care has increased interest in boosting advanced practice nursing. However, even in countries where this has been underway for a long time, its potential is underused.

“More established APN roles are found most often in higher income countries. From available data, the US may have the greatest extent of health systems integration with APNs making up 6.5% of the nursing workforce.  In contrast, in most other countries APNs make up less than 1% of the nursing workforce.”

The use of clinical advanced practice nursing in the Finnish health service system is similarly small. By the end of 2013, only 152 nurses graduated who have the limited right to prescribe medicines.

New teamwork
Nurses have always been determined promoters and advocates of their own professional skills and expertise. Merasto urges nurses and particularly nursing managers to advance changes.

“Change always involves venturing to the boundary separating the old and the new, daring to move out of your comfort zone, as well as locating new, unbiased forms of cooperation and genuine dialogue with different stakeholders. This conference will strengthen and involve us in working together to realise the common aspiration of nurses worldwide: to be able to fully draw on their own skills in the treatment and care of patients,” says Merasto.

She cites the good example of the Samaria Health Centre, just west of the Finnish capital in Espoo, where doctors and nursing staff together discuss the core activities of the health centre and how they should be developed.

The health centre had long suffered from a shortage of doctors and waiting list for non-emergency treatment. The input by nurses to reform the health centre was central to its regeneration. Since lastspring, the waiting list has been shorter than those at other health centres in Espoo, and the doctors’ workload manageable. 

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On Twitter: #APNN2014

*Advance Practice Nursing refers to the range of tasks in the expanded job description of specialist nurses.

The International Council of Nurses (ICN) is a federation of more than 130 national nurses associations representing the millions of nurses worldwide. Operated by nurses and leading nursing internationally, ICN works to ensure quality nursing care for all and sound health policies globally. ICN has all together eleven networks. International Nurse Practitioner/Advanced Practice Nursing Network (INP/APNN) is one of them. The 8th ICN INP/APNN Conference will be hosted by the Finnish Nurses Association.

Further information:

  • Anna Suutarla, Head of International Operations, Tel:+ 010 321 3339,
  • Laura Niemi, Head of Marketing and Communications, Tel:+358503738602,