Newly created PHC college looks to the future

1 July 2010

Newly created PHC college looks to the future

A new single voice for nearly 2000 primary health care nurses was voted into existence at the end of June.

The NZ College of Primary Health Care Nurses NZNO was launched at the inaugural conference in Auckland attended by more than 370 nurses from across the sector.

The merger of the former College of Practice Nurses and the public health and district nurse sections of the New Zealand Nurses Organisation creates a new body with 1989 members including nurses working in prisons, iwi providers, schools, sexual health and family planning.

Karyn Sangster, chair of the Primary Health Care Nurses Advisory Council which guided the college into existence said the new college was an “absolutely fantastic” achievement that could not have happened without the commitment and vision of all the members.

The commitment was reflected with 32 nurses elected from 91 nominations for the new college’s executive and standing committees and a better voter turnout than for the recent NZNO election.

NZNO president Nano Tunnicliff said it was very exciting for primary health care nurses to have a united voice to drive health policy in New Zealand and also provide one port of call for bodies wanting to seek advice on primary health care nursing.

Debbie Davies, interim chair of the college until the full executive meets in August to elect a chair, said it had been a long journey to form the new college, with “quite a few twists and turns” and she was very excited to see it finally created.

Davies, a former chair of the College of Practice Nurses which brings the majority of members to the new college, said it was five years since it first opened up membership to other primary health care nurses and three years since it started moves to change its name to reflect its wider representation. But that move was stopped by the NZNO board of directors two years ago, leading to the merger proposal and the new college being created.

Outgoing chair of the College of Practice Nurses Rachel Calverley and former chair Rosemary Minto have also been elected on to the executive.

Outgoing district nurse section chair Denise White said she was excited by the merger, which she saw as a vital and strategic opportunity for all involved in delivering primary health care to have a collective voice. White, who is on the college’s new executive committee, said district nurses already had a strong virtual network, and representatives on standing committees would continue to meet to discuss issues that emerged for their sector. “I see that as an ideal mix – allowing that unique voice to go forward and also to bring that unique voice into the broader collective voice of the college.”

Laurie Mahoney, the outoing chair of the public health nurses section, said the move was positive and the very well-organised conference had been a good collaborative effort. She also said there was good coverage of all areas of practice on the new college. But with public health the smallest of the three merging bodies (about 340 members; around 80 per cent of public health nurses) public health nurses would need to make a concerted effort to have their voice heard and to keep up connections with their peers internationally.

Davies said the first priorities for the new college were to merge the membership databases and work on setting up regional divisions where primary health care nurses could network and set local education priorities.

She said policy-wise it would be business as usual for sector representatives who would continue their current roles with government and national advisory groups. But in future when the minister or ministry wanted advice on primary health care nursing in general, there would be one point of contact and one voice. The college would also maintain – through the virtual networks – the ability for specialty groups to speak on issues specific to their area of practice. It was also keen to promote itself to the wider primary health care nursing community so the membership could continue to grow.

Other members of the nine strong executive committee are Varina Flavell, Te Runaga; Mairi Lucas, Māori/iwi provider; Rachel Hale, rural; Brenda Bruning, PHC; and Rhonda Mikoz, Public Health. ✚