PHO calls on practices to shoulder-tap nurses for more training and support

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PHO calls on practices to shoulder-tap nurses for more training and support

First published in New Zealand Doctor | Rata Aotearoa on 28 September
Coral Skipper, Sandra Wilkinson, Nursing, Mahitahi
Coral Skipper, Mahitahi’s newly appointed Northland regional coordinator for nursing workforce development, and Sandra Wilkinson, primary and community workforce lead

Mahitahi Hauora is seeking Northland general practices’ help to find registered nurses it can support on the pathway to nurse practitioner.

The Northland PHO is looking to grow “the Māori workforce and our non-Māori workforce to work with Māori populations better”, says nurse director Josephine Davis.

The aim is to identify suitable nurses, in particular, Māori nurses but also others living and working in rural communities with high-needs populations.

Mahitahi is a partner in a four-year Ministry of Health contract to support placements of up to 18 new nurse practitioners and 40 enrolled nurses nationwide in primary care, with a focus on mental health.

The contract includes $750,000 a year targeted funding to boost the number of Māori nurse practitioner candidates into the expanded Nurse Practitioner Training Programme.

For some aspiring Māori nurses, the 18-month enrolled nurse programme is the most realistic path because of its shorter time and lower cost, Ms Davis says.

NorthTec’s reinstated training programme for enrolled nurses has a large number of Māori students, including students from remote communities who could return to their homes and work in primary care.

But not all general practices are familiar with the enrolled nurse role, says Ms Davis. So Mahitahi is looking to work with NorthTec to get practices on board with the training of some practice nurses to take on preceptor roles.

The PHO also hopes to identify rural primary care providers ready to employ the students as healthcare assistants over summer in their home communities and to consider an enrolled nurse placement on their graduation.

“Earn as you learn” means graduates are familiar with the practice, and the practice is familiar with them, Ms Davis says.

In Northland, 15 primary care nurse practitioners work in general practice or Māori providers, and about six of these are of Māori descent.

The PHO plans to use the new contract to provide more funding for NP candidates to travel for courses, including family support during their absence, and to bring more course offerings into Northland.

“For nurses in our Far North, it can be a whole day of travel for them to get to Auckland to access postgrad education.”

They may work all day and end up travelling most of the night to be ready for a 9am start in Auckland.

“So that requires significant determination,” Ms Davis says.

Mahitahi has appointed Coral Skipper as regional coordinator. The national coordinator for the University of Auckland-led contract, Sue Adams, says it aims to ultimately increase the number of Māori nurses entering the Nurse Practitioner Training Programme to 10 a year nationwide.

From next year, the programme will support 50 candidates through their final year of NP training.

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