Postgraduate funding steady for 2016

August 2015 Vol 15 (4)

It is now around eight years since funding for postgraduate nursing study was decentralised to district health boards.

The funding has been basically static for a number of years but the number of training units it supports has still managed to grow slightly as more nurses across the regions come on board (see table).

Health Workforce New Zealand (HWNZ) group manager Ruth Anderson says $12.7 million of the $13 million allocated for postgraduate study was utilised last year. She says the funding pool is the same for 2015 and at this stage it looks like it will remain the same for 2016. (HWNZ has said a pilot to boost the numbers of nurse practitioners in 2016 – see ‘Nurses unconvinced by positive PA evaluation’ on page 20 – will not be funded from the postgraduate nurse funding pool.)

Increased study uptake by ARC nurses

Sue Hayward, head of the national Nursing Education Advisory Team (NEAT), says one trend in recent years for the funding pool has been the increased study uptake by nurses in aged residential care who are feeling more supported by their employers and are becoming “positively engaged” in postgraduate study.

“In residential aged care we are breaking down the concerns of facility owners about getting funding to release their nurses for study – they are finally getting to understand all that, which is really great for that workforce,” says Hayward, who is also director of nursing for Waikato DHB.

Hayward says directors of nursing in the DHBs around the country are driving the uptake of HWNZ postgraduate funding in areas they know the workforce is most vulnerable and needs extra educational opportunities to support the patient demand. This includes residential aged care and primary health care.

Hayward says the focus of NEAT in recent years has been less on increasing the postgraduate study fund but making it more flexible to better meet the regional workforce needs of individual district health boards. "What we are wanting to do is to be able to prove to HWNZ that the money that has been allocated to nursing has been well-spent, has been equitably spent and has really good outcomes to patients as well as workforce retention and leadership development."

DHB spending prioritisation challenge

Hayward says the next challenge is to allow each DHB to prioritise how they spend their allocated postgraduate study funding. This will become particularly important as the country heads down the path of nurse prescribing and expanded scope roles like nurse endoscopy and nurses as first surgical assistants.

She says it is likely there will be a little concentrated “hump” of spending once the prescribing postgraduate diploma is confirmed and nurses seek support and funding to pursue becoming prescribers in their specialty.

“I think what we want to relook at is how we support financially the expanded scopes – particularly ongoing implementing of roles like nurse endoscopist – because of the amount of time they need to be backfilled.” Hayward says NEAT has discussed this issue extensively with HWNZ who have been receptive and were looking at every avenue they could.

HWNZ-funded postgraduate nurse study statistics

2011               1429  (training units*)

2012               1442              

2013               1480   

2014               1524 ($12.7M of the $13M allocated was utilised)

2015               793  (to date i.e. semester one)

 *A training unit is the equivalent of a two paper PGCert or one year of a PGDip or Masters degree programme (with or without clinical mentoring).  The cost of a unit can vary from $7,374 per annum to more than $28,000 per annum.

Te Pou Skills Matter (targeted mental health nurse postgraduate funding)

2013               40 funded places on Clinical Leadership in Nursing Practice (CLN) programmes

2014               47 trainee places on CLNP programmes

2015               39 trainee places on CLNP programmes (Reduced to enable increased places for new graduates on NESP {new entry to specialist practice} programmes for mental health and addiction nurses in 2015.)

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