Health Minister Simon Harris, who launched the programme at University College Dublin yesterday, said it will result in the delivery of 700 advance nurse practitioner posts by 2021.
“This initiative will provide patients with more appropriate, safe and accessible care across a range of services,” said Mr Harris.
The new education model will initially see 120 advanced nurse practitioners trained to provide care across a range of services.
The minister said there is “huge interest” in the programme — more than 400 nurses have applied to take part in it.
Advance nurse practitioners already work in emergency departments and local injury units, but Mr Harris said the development of posts is ad hoc and on a small scale.
“There are areas of advanced practice that are underdeveloped within our health services, particularly around services for older person care, chronic disease management and unscheduled care which are the focus of this initiative,” he said.
“This is about scaling up. It is about looking at countries like Australia, where they now have 2% of their nursing workforce working as advanced nurse practitioners. That is where we want to get to as well.”
The programme is being run by a consortium of colleges led by UCC and including Trinity College Dublin, the National University of Ireland Galway and UCD.
Chairwoman and head of the School of Nursing and Midwifery at UCC, Eileen Savage, said advanced nurse practitioners have diagnostic referral authority so there will be much quicker access to the services for patients.
“You will see them working across GP practices and health centres, but they will also be integrated with the acute sector,” she said.