Nearly 50 would-be nurse practitioners have applied for just 20 places in the first dedicated NP training programme.
Dr Michal Boyd , a nurse practitioner who was one of the instigators of the programme said they were thrilled by the response "particularly because it means that there are 49 employers ready to hire an NP at the end of the process".
Health Minister Jonathan Coleman announced the go-ahead in late July for the $846,000 NP training programme (NPTP) pilot that will be funded by Health Workforce New Zealand (HWNZ) and provided by the University of Auckland and Massey University nursing schools.
A criteria for all applicants to the NPTP was having backing in writing from an employer ready to support them during the training year and offer them an NP job once registered.
Professor Jenny Carryer of Massey University nursing school also said the two universities were delighted there were "that many employers with a potential (NP) candidate and the vision to support the role".
Associate Professor Judy Kilpatrick, head of the University of Auckland nursing school said interest had "exceeded expectations" and there was a good spread of applications from across the country. She said the priority areas of primary health and aged care were well represented and there were applicants also in youth health, palliative care, diabetes and mental health.
Carryer said for Massey the applicants were predominantly in primary health care and, with each university restricted to offering ten funded places, the schools would have to turn down some eligible candidates.
The pilot is due to get underway in February and during the 10 month supported programme the trainees will complete their clinical masters degree plus commit two days a week to meeting clinical practicum requirements in prescribing and diagnostic reasoning. At the end of the ten months they will have completed a portfolio to submit to Nursing Council and will undertake a clinical and oral exam.
Boyd, said the real innovation for the NPTP programme was aligning the clinical education component with both employers seeking NPs and with the registration processes of the Nursing Council.
"This will eliminate the gap that has previously occurred between the prescribing practicum, and Nursing Council registration and securing NP employment."
Boyd who is a senior lecturer at the University of Auckland and an older adults NP for Waitemata District Health Board, said the pilot is based on a similar NP intern model that was successfully trialed in Waitemata DHB in 2008.
In the 12 months to March 31 2015 only 19 new NPs were registered bringing the total number of NPs registered to 157 of which 145 NPs are currently practising
Carryer said the pilot, with its 20 dedicated funded places, should lead to a significant increase in NPs as other students would continue to apply for an complete papers in the normal manner. (The 20 places being offered for NPTP are on top of the annual postgraduate nursing study funding pool which would-be NPs who aren't on the pilot can still access to fund them through their clinical masters degree and prescribing practicum.)
The universities are currently short-listing the applicants and successful candidates will be notified in December. Kilpatrick said with such a 'pleasing' number of applications it was hoped ongoing funding for the programme would be available beyond the pilot year.