• health workforce;
  • nursing;
  • policy;
  • specialty criteria;
  • Australia


One of the biggest obstacles identified in achieving Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) was the lack of available qualified health personal to meet the health needs of the global population. With nurses being the main workforce component in health systems, the human resource challenge for most countries is to address the reported shortage of nurses. Skill mix is one suggestion.

In Australia, workforce projections indicated a shortage of 40,000 nurses by 2010. Toward the reform of the Australian health workforce, one project aimed to develop a nationally consistent framework for nursing and midwifery specialization based on knowledge and skills to generate the first national database iteration for designated specialties. A literature review looked at the way nursing specialty practices were defined in the United Kingdom, the United States of America and Canada. Three international and three national sources of criteria for specialty nursing practice were mapped against each other. The result was six criteria synthesized to define nursing practice groups as Australian nursing specialties. Each criterion was operationalized with criteria indicators to meet Australian expectations. The nurses in Australia commented on the criteria before they were finalized. An audit of national workforce databases identified nursing practice groups. The criteria were applied to identify nursing specialties and practice strands that would form a national nursing framework. This paper reports on the criteria developed to assess specialty practice at a national level in Australia. Copyright © 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.