What is primary health care nursing?

Primary health care is any medical service that is provided outside the four walls of a hospital, including aged care, community health, general practice, custodial, schools and many other primary health care settings.

Australia's 96,000+ primary health care nurses play a critical role in disease prevention and control to keep people healthy. They provide proactive care and health promotion to keep Australians well.

APNA membership equips primary health care nurses to succeed in their careers

Click here to learn more about APNA membership

Why is primary health care so important?

With Australia’s aging population and deteriorating health, a strong and accessible primary health care system is vital to keep people well and out of hospital.  

Primary health care is the first level of contact that individuals, families and communities have with the healthcare system. In Australia, this:

  • Incorporates personal care with health promotion, the prevention of illness and community development
  • Includes the interconnecting principles of equity, access, empowerment, community self-determination and inter-sectoral collaboration
  • Encompasses an understanding of the social, economic, cultural and political determinants of health

In what settings do primary health care nurses work?

Primary health care nurses work in a range of settings, each sharing the characteristic that they are a part of the first level of contact with the health system.

In Australia, those settings can include (click on below icons to learn more):




Meet some primary health care nurses


What is the role of a primary health care nurse?

Primary health care nurses play a vital role in keeping Australians healthy. Their work covers:

  • Health promotion
  • Illness prevention
  • Healthy ageing
  • Antenatal and postnatal care
  • Child and family health nursing
  • Treatment and care of sick people
  • Rehabilitation and palliation
  • Community development
  • Population and public health
  • Education and research
  • Policy development and advocacy

Scope of practice

Scope of practice for nurses is determined by professional registration (i.e. registered nurse or enrolled nurse), endorsement (i.e. prescribing scheduled medicines by nurse practitioners), educational background, nursing experience and clinical specialisation. 

A nurse can build their clinical and professional capabilities to expand their scope of practice through education and training to develop a broader skill set that remains within the legislated professional practice standards and competencies. 

An individual nurse’s scope of practice may vary considerably from that of another nurse.

Grounded in their scope of practice, nurses provide socially appropriate, universally accessible, scientifically sound, first level care. They work independently and interdependently in teams to:

  • Give priority to those most in need and address health inequalities
  • Maximise community and individual self-reliance, participation and control
  • Ensure collaboration and partnership with other sectors to promote public health

Read Scope of practice | APNA Position Statement in Related Documents below.

Also in this section

Is primary health care nursing right for you?

Is primary health care nursing right for you? Our 10 minute quiz will help you identify how your interests, strengths and goals might set you up for a great career in primary health care

Aged care nursing

APNA supports aged care nurses—advice, education, insurance and advocacy to name a few—so that you can enjoy a rewarding career.

School nursing

APNA supports school nurses—advice, education, insurance and advocacy to name a few—so that you can enjoy a rewarding career.

Join APNA as a member

Only $26.50 per month for professionals!


The Australian Primary Health Care Nurses Association acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of country throughout Australia and their connections to land, sea and community. We pay our respects to elders past and present and extend that respect to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples today.

© Copyright 2024 Australian Primary Health Care Nurses Association (APNA). All rights reserved. MRM by Bond Software.


Item removed. Undo