Objective: This paper presents analysis of consumer focus groups that were undertaken as a part of the project to develop the now current Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia's Nurse Practitioner Standards for Practice.
Methods: Six focus groups were conducted with consumers around Australia, including urban and remote areas. One purpose for these groups was to explore what was known of nurse practitioners and whether consumers could articulate the difference between the regulated titles of enrolled nurse, registered nurse and nurse practitioner.
Results: Consumers' knowledge of nurses' roles in the Australian primary healthcare system, and hence system literacy (particularly in terms of navigating the system), was low. Of perhaps greatest importance is the fact that those consumers with low health systems literacy also exhibited a low level of motivation to seek new knowledge. Many consumers relied on the medical profession to direct care.
Conclusion: The low levels of health literacy raise questions of how to meaningfully include health consumers in innovative health-related policy work.
What is known about the topic?: Health literacy includes individual attributes and those of the system in which the context of care is placed. Individual attributes include not only knowledge and confidence but also motivation. It is known that consumer knowledge related to the nursing workforce is low.
What does this paper add?: This paper adds the finding that along with knowledge that consumer motivation is low to find out more about the nursing workforce in general. This finding extends to Nurse Practitioners in particular. This is occurring in the context of frequent contact with nurses in the context in which care is received.
What are the implications for practitioners?: This finding informs strategies to build health literacy in the community, as the approach that will lead to success is clearly not just one of providing accessible information. The factor of motivation warrants attention.