Stepping up funded places on the nurse practitioner ‘registrar’ programme is needed to help boost NP numbers but not at the expense of quality, say nursing leaders.

The Ministry of Health and Chief Nurses Office is seeking feedback on where next for the ‘registrar’ style Nurse Practitioner Training Programme (NPTP) which recently received a positive evaluation report.

The NPTP, currently offered at only Auckland and Massey universities,  is now into its third annual cohort with selected NPTP students requiring employer support and an NP job awaiting them at the end of the intensive ‘registrar’ style programme which includes two fully-funded clinical practicums.

Mark Baldwin, an NP and chair of Nurse Practitioners New Zealand, said New Zealand was a long way short of the number of NPs needed to meet health care needs and doubted it would ever get to the point of over-producing NPs “even if we add an extra 10-20 NPTP places”.

Currently New Zealand has 299 practising NPs and registered a record 77 new NPs in 2016-17, including 13 NPTP graduates.

This week the New Zealand Nurses Organisation released its new Strategy for Nursing 2018-2023 which includes the ‘aspirational’ target of training an additional 200-250 new NPs a year until 2020.

Associate Professor Michal Boyd, an NP and the leader of the University of Auckland NPTP programme said the evaluation reported showed that NPTP provided a clear pathway that incorporated education, registration and employment as never before.

But she added that the report also emphasised the need for NPTP classes to have a critical mass of 10 or more students to enable students to support each other and for the provider to have the NP faculty resources to teach and supervise clinical practicums across the country.  “Such resources are only available at a limited number of providers.”

At present five university nursing schools – Auckland, AUT, Massey, Victoria and Otago’s Christchurch School of Medicine – offer clinical masters’ programme that are accredited by Nursing Council as leading to NP registration plus Waikato Institute of Technology (Wintech), Eastern Institute of Technology (EIT) and Ara Institute of Canterbury (in league with EIT).

The University of Auckland this year has 13 NPTP students enrolled along with four other final year NP trainees funded through the conventional Health Workforce New Zealand (HWNZ) postgraduate funding pool.

Associate Professor and NP Karen Hoare, who is the new postgraduate director at Massey University and convenor of its NPTP programme, said Massey this year has 10 NPTP students and six other final year NP trainees.

Hoare had taken note of the Ministry seeking feedback on encouraging greater participation of Māori and Pacific nurses in NPTPs and said her intention was for half of Massey’s 2019 cohort to be Māori and Pacific nurses.  She said there had been no Māori NPTP applicants to Massey for 2018 and she would be working nationally with colleague Val Williams, who was very involved in Māori workforce development, to make that change for 2019.

Associate Professor Stephen Neville, head of AUT’s nursing school and New Zealand spokesperson for the Council of Deans of Nursing and Midwifery, said the Council was currently preparing its submission on the report and request for feedback.

But he said it was the Council’s view that the NPTP should be expanded to include only existing providers of  Nursing Council-approved nurse practitioner education.  He said it was also clear that these providers must be able to meet a threshold of critical resourcing including sufficient NP academic mentors and having a programme lead by research active staff, preferably doctorally-qualified.




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