Research Article| Volume 22, ISSUE 2, P161-167, June 2015

Nursing students’ intentions to enter primary health care as a career option: Findings from a national survey


      This paper reports findings from the first phase of a national study conducted to identify the intention of nursing students’ to work in a Primary Health Care setting following registration. An online survey of final year nursing students enrolled at Australian universities offering education leading to eligibility for registration as a nurse with the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency was undertaken during July–August 2014. Data were collected about students’ intention to enter Primary Health Care as a career option, as well as their exposure to primary health care during their nursing education and whether they had undertaken practice placements in a primary health care setting. Analysis was conducted on 456 completed surveys. The findings demonstrated that, despite the majority (98.2%; n = 447) of students being exposed to Primary Health Care during their studies, less than a quarter (22.8%; n = 104) of the students who responded identified this as an area in which they intended to work following registration. No association was found between students’ clinical experiences and their identification of primary health care as a career preference. Given the ageing population in Australia, the increased prevalence of chronic health issues and the predicted ongoing primary health care workforce shortages, educational and workplace strategies aimed at attracting new graduate nurse into Primary Health Care settings are imperative.


      To read this article in full you will need to make a payment

      Purchase one-time access:

      Academic & Personal: 24 hour online accessCorporate R&D Professionals: 24 hour online access
      One-time access price info
      • For academic or personal research use, select 'Academic and Personal'
      • For corporate R&D use, select 'Corporate R&D Professionals'


      Subscribe to Collegian
      Already a print subscriber? Claim online access
      Already an online subscriber? Sign in
      Institutional Access: Sign in to ScienceDirect


        • Ali P.A.
        • Watson R.
        • Albutt G.
        Are English novice nurses prepared to work in primary care setting?.
        Nurse Education in Practice. 2011; 11: 304-308
        • Australian Government Department of Health & Ageing
        Submission to the Productivity Commission Inquiry Caring for Older Australians from the Department of Health & Ageing Dec 2010.
        • Australian Nursing Federation
        Primary Health Care in Australia. A nursing and midwifery consensus view.
        2009 (accessed 08.12.14)
        • Australian Medicare Local Alliance
        General practice Nurse National Survey. Report.
        2012 (accessed 08.12.14)
        • Bennett P.
        • Jones D.
        • Brown J.
        • Barlow V.
        Supporting rural. Remote primary health placement experiences increases undergraduate nurse confidence.
        Nurse Education Today. 2013; 33: 166-172
        • Birks M.
        • Al-Motlaq M.
        • Mills J.
        Pre-registration nursing degree students in rural Victoria: Characteristics and career aspirations.
        Collegian: The Australian Journal of Nursing Practice, Scholarship and Research. 2010; 17: 23-29
        • Crettenden I.
        • McCarty M.
        • Fenech B.
        • Heywood T.
        • Taitz M.
        • Tudman S.
        How evidence-based workforce planning in Australia is informing policy development in the retention and distribution of the health workforce.
        Human Resources for Health. 2014; 12: 7
        • Gordon C.
        • Aggar C.
        • Williams A.
        • Walker L.
        • Wilcox S.
        • Bloomfield J.
        A transition program to primary health care for new graduate nurses: A strategy towards building a sustainable primary health care nurse workforce?.
        BMC Nursing. 2014; 13
        • Halcomb E.J.
        • Davidson P.M.
        • Brown N.
        Uptake of Medicare chronic disease items in Australia by general practice nurses and Aboriginal health workers.
        Collegian: The Australian Journal of Nursing Practice, Scholarship and Research. 2010; 17: 57-61
        • Halcomb E.J.
        • Salamonson Y.
        • Davidson P.M.
        • Kaur R.
        • Young S.A.M.
        The evolution of nursing in Australian general practice: A comparative analysis of workforce surveys ten years on.
        BMC Family Practice. 2014; 15: 52
        • Health Workforce Australia
        Health Workforce 2025 – Doctors, Nurses and Midwives.
        Health Workforce Australia, Adelaide2012 (accessed 08.12.14)
        • Hickey N.
        • Harrison L.
        Career choices and destinations of rural nursing students undertaking single and double degrees in nursing.
        Australian Journal of Advanced Nursing. 2013; 30: 32-39
        • Hittleman D.R.
        • Simon A.J.
        Interpreting educational research: An introduction for consumers of research.
        Merril, Upper Saddle River, NJ2006
        • Levett-Jones T.
        • FitzGerald M.
        A review of Practice Nurse Transition Programs in Australia.
        Australian Journal of Advanced Nursing. 2005; 23: 40-45
        • Keleher H.J.C.
        • Parker R.
        • Piterman L.
        Practice nurses in Australia: Current issues and future directions.
        Medical Journal of Australia. 2007; 187: 108-110
        • McCann T.V.
        • Clark E.
        • Lu S.
        Bachelor of Nursing students career choices: A three-year longitudinal study.
        Nurse Education Today. 2010; 30: 31-36
        • Parker R.
        • Keleher H.
        • Forrest L.
        The work, education and career pathways of nurses in Australian general practice.
        Australian Journal of Public Health. 2011; 17: 227-232
        • Parker R.
        • Walker L.
        • Hegarty K.
        Primary care nursing workforce in Australia: A vision for the future.
        Australian Family Physician. 2010; 39: 159-160
        • Peters K.
        • Halcomb E.J.
        • McInnes S.
        Clinical placements in general practice: Relationships between practice nurses and tertiary institutions.
        Nurse Education in Practice. 2013; 13: 186-191
        • Phillips C.B.
        • Pearce C.M.
        • Dwan K.M.
        • et al.
        Charting new roles for Australian general practice nurses: Abridged report of the Australian General Practice Nurses Study.
        Australian Primary Care Institute, Canberra2008
        • Porritt J.
        Policy development to support nursing in Australian general practice: An overview.
        Contemporary Nurse. 2007; 26: 56-64
        • Russell L.M.
        Primary care and general practice in Australia 1990–2012. A Chronology of Federal Government strategies, policies, programs and funding.
        Australian Primary Health Care Research Institute, Acton, ACT, Australia2013 (accessed 08.12.14)
        • Rush K.L.
        • Adamack M.
        • Gordon J.
        • Lilly M.
        • Janke R.
        Best practices of formal new graduate nurse transition programs: An integrative review.
        International Journal of Nursing Studies. 2013; 50: 345-356
        • Stevens J.A.
        Student nurses’ career preferences for working with older people: A replicated longitudinal study.
        International Journal of Nursing Studies. 2011; 48: 944-951

      Linked Article