Once a week, a group of Auckland gerontology nurse specialists and NPs gather together to share and learn.
The informal ‘earlybird’ gathering was initiated by aged-care NP Michal Boyd to be an education session where the nurses are able to review issues in their field, and also to mentor. Boyd says the mentoring role is particularly important for NP interns Isabella Wright and Claire Mooney. “It’s really hard to be a pioneer by yourself,” says Boyd. “You need a bunch of people who can relate to you and really understand what you are going through. It’s actually quite crucial.” She says being a lone senior nurse in aged care can be very tough – particularly with the high expectations that can be placed upon you.
Boyd is unaware of any other NP intern positions in the residential aged-care sector following the Bupa and Selwyn appointments. Funding for training and employing an NP in the cash-stretched sector remains a major barrier. And the half-dozen or so aged-care NPs registered to date are not employed in the residential aged-care sector.
The aged-related residential care (AARC) contract was revised in 2010 to allow NPs to carry out roles – like the assessment of new residents – formerly carried out by GPs, but the bigger hurdle of opening up a government funding stream so NPs can be paid as independent practitioners, like their GP or midwife colleagues, has not followed. Busy NPs like Boyd keep lobbying and hoping that things will change soon.
“I really think aged care will take off this way (in a collaborative approach with our physician colleagues), but we’re not there yet.”