Nurse assistant courses still popular

1 February 2010

Nursing schools report steady and even strong interest in training programmes for nurse assistants as they and their students await details of the enrolled nurse programme that will replace the NA role.

The Nursing Council late last year decided to replace the current one-year NA programme with an 18-month EN programme at a higher level.

Meanwhile, the seven nursing schools currently offering NA programmes await with interest the new competencies for the extended and higher-level EN programme, with many keen to work collaboratively to develop an EN programme as well as bridging courses for NA students and graduates.

Schools with February intakes for their NA programmes reported sustained interest and all were going ahead after informing students of the changes afoot while planning to develop bridging programmes for affected students.

However, some schools planning July intakes have either withdrawn their programmes or are delaying decisions until the likely timeframe for developing and offering the new EN programme is known.

Cathy Andrew, head of Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology’s nursing school said its one intake for the year in April was already full and it had notified the prospective students of the council’s decision. She said CPIT would look to develop a bridging pathway for its NA students and those who had already graduated, including an intake due to sit its state final exams in March.

Unitec joint acting head of nursing Sue Gasquoine said Unitec’s third NA cohort, due to start in March, was full and it had a waiting list. She said prospective and existing students had been informed that a Nursing Council decision was imminent and students seemed to have greeted the news positively with one telling her she was keen to transition to be an EN.

Debbie Penlington – head of MIT’s nursing school – said the institute also had strong interest in programmes with more applicants than places for its February long-term care intake. The school’s first NA intake in 2008 was small but last year MIT had 33 acute and 26 long-term care students. This year it was offering 22-24 long-term care places in response to feedback from employers.

Acting head of Southern Institute of Technology’s nursing school, Sally Dobbs, said the institute was very positive about the move to an EN programme and was looking forward to more details as its next intake was planned for July and it was keen to move to offer an EN programme as soon as possible.

Wendy Scott, programme leader for Whitireia Community Polytechnic’s nurse assistant programmes, said its second intake was due to sit state final exams in July. She said there was “huge interest” in the prospective EN programme and she did not envisage any problems with enrolling students.

NorthTec, the first nursing school to offer NA programmes, said its NA enrolment numbers were down on last year and it was currently enrolling for an aged care intake due to start in Whangarei in February. Regional manager Phil Giles said NorthTec had written to all students telling them of the changes and the Nursing Council’s indication that it would prefer all NAs to become ENs through a transition programme at level five on the Qualifications Framework.

The current 12-month NA programme is at level four whereas a third of the new 18-month EN programme is to be at level five or diploma level.

Patrea Anderson, associate director of Waiariki Institute of Technology’s school of nursing said it had had its first intake in 2009 and interest was sustained for 2010.