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16 May 2001

Olwyn Johnston Nurse Practitioner - an Australian first

The Minister for health, Craig Knowles, has announced the appointment of the first practising nurse practitioner in NSW and Australia, Ms Olwyn Johnston from Wanaaring in the Far West Area Health Service.

"This is truly an historic day for our health system. Ms Johnston is the first nurse to take up a Nurse Practitioner potion in NSW," said Mr Knowles.

"Nurse Practitioners will be a valuable resource in rural and remote communities, to work side by side with doctors to provide much needed primary care services.

"On the day before international Nurses Day this news couldn’t be more timely. The authorisation of nurse practitioners has been a long process over ten years. It is extremely rewarding for everyone who has worked so hard to see nurse practitioners become a reality.

"To be the first practising nurse practitioner in both NSW and Australia is a magnificent achievement for both Ms Johnston and the people in the Far West Health Service who have worked hard to make her appointment possible.

"Ms Johnston is the only resident health professional in Wanaaring, an isolated town 190km to the north west of Bourke and several hundred kms to the north east of Broken Hill.

"She will provide much needed primary health care services to the town and the surrounding community.

"As a generalist (remote) nurse practitioner her practice may also include the initiation of diagnostic tests, prescription of specified medications and referral to other health professionals. This will be within the framework of the approved clinical guidelines, which have been developed by a multidisciplinary group.

"Ms Johnston will continue to work in close consultation and liaison with the Royal Flying Doctor Service.

"The diagnostic tests she may initiate and interpret include x-ray, blood, urine cultures, wound culture and pregnancy tests. The range of medications she may use include antibiotics for infections, analgesics for pain management, antipyretic agents to reduce fever and intravenous fluids," said Mr Knowles.

The Nurses Registration Board has also authorised a further two Nurse Practitioners: Mr John Lyons, Coonabarabran (Macquarie AHS) and Ms Anne Galloway, Tamworth (New England AHS). This now brings to six the number of Nurse Practitioners who have been authorised by the NSW Nurses Registration Board.

Ms Johnston is the first of these authorised Nurse Practitioner to fill a nurse practitioner position.

Olwyn Johnston commenced her nursing career at the Sacred Heart Hospice in Sydney in April 1979 as an assistant in nursing. In July 1980 she commenced training at St Vincent’s Hospital Sydney as a trainee nurse aide graduating as an enrolled nurse in 1981. She continued to work at St Vincent’s where she began her training to become a registered nurse in 1982 graduating in 1985 as a registered nurse.

Olwyn spent between 1987 and 1991 at the Royal Newcastle Hospital as a registered nurse before travelling to Walgett to commence work for the then Orana Health Service. During this time she worked on a casual basis as a registered nurse in both Walgett and Lightning ridge.

In April 1995 Olwyn was offered a full time position working as a registered nurse in Lightning Ridge.

In 1998 Olwyn accepted the position as Nurse Unit Manager Level I at Wanaaring Community Health Centre.

Olwyn is a recipient of a Far West Area Health Service remote nursing scholarship and is currently a final year student undertaking the Masters of Nursing Rural and Remote through the faculty of Nursing University of Sydney.

Olwyn’s commitment to rural and remote health is evident throughout her career development, her work in the community and the high regard in which members of the public and her peer group hold her.

By taking on the challenge of this new role as Nurse Practitioner, Olwyn’s commitment tot he Area Health Service and her community is reinforced.

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