PHC survey shows expanded role

1 April 2010

About half of primary health care nurses currently provide nurse-led clinics, according to an online survey by the College of Practice Nurses.

Nearly 180 members of the NZNO college took part in the December survey – about a 20 per cent response rate – carried out in the lead-up to a planned merger of primary health nursing groups midway through this year.

National executive member Debbie Davies said access to computers may have contributed to the low response rate but the finding that 75 per cent of surveyed members were over 45 was in line with Nursing Council statistics.

The survey also found that 85 per cent of respondents were hospital-trained – and about 11 per cent were overseas-trained, with most of those from the UK.

“We are clearly a part-time workforce with mean hours worked being 28.5 hours,” Davies reported.

A good proportion had undergone postgraduate study with nearly 40 per cent having a postgraduate certificate, 18.5 per cent a postgraduate diploma and nearly 12 per cent had a masters degree. Also about 12 per cent were aiming for nurse practitioner registration.

More than two-thirds of respondents' roles had expanded in the past five years to either a wider scope, incorporation of long term conditions management, increased autonomy or a move to a team leader or management role.

A wide range of health roles were undertaken by respondents but the majority carried out immunisation, wound care, cardiovascular disease screening/monitoring and ongoing lifestyle education. Two-thirds were providing long term condition management in areas such as diabetes, respiratory, and cardiac care patients. Only a third were providing long term care management for mental health clients.

Overall almost half were providing nurse-led clinics, with the most common areas being diabetes, cardiovascular, women’s health, respiratory, healthy lifestyle, sexual health and cervical screening.

The survey also found that the majority received education from their primary health organisation, more than half from their district health board, nearly half also got education from the college and tertiary providers accounted for 38 per cent of education.

The college and the public health nurse section and district nurse section are currently working towards officially merging at a conference in June to form the proposed College of Primary Health Care Nurses NZNO.