The long awaited go-ahead has been given to piloting a dedicated training programme for 20 would-be nurse practitioners in 2016.
Health Minister Jonathan Coleman announced the go-ahead today for the $846,000 demonstration that will be funded by Health Workforce New Zealand (HWNZ) and provided by The University of Auckland and Massey University nursing schools.
Professor Jenny Carryer of the Massey University School of Nursing said they were "absolutely delighted" by the news.
"We will be working now with the numerous individuals and potential employers who have expressed interest," she said.
Associate Professor Judy Kilpatrick, head of The University of Auckland School of Nursing, said the aim of the NP programme was to streamline the NP pathway with a one-year focused programme of study and supervised clinical practice.
Applicant nurses will have already completed their postgraduate diploma and prerequisite pharmacology papers and be ready to enter the final year of study for their clinical master's degree in nursing, including clinical practicums in advanced nursing practice and prescribing.
They will also require written support from an employer ready to support them during the training year and offer them an NP position once they are registered, plus the support of a nurse practitioner or doctor ready to provide clinical supervision in their field of practice.
Kilpatrick and Michal Boyd, a practicing NP and senior lecturer, argued in their initial application for HWNZ funding that a dedicated training programme was needed because of the current "wasteful gap" between the number of nurses completing their clinical master's training and the number progressing to actually getting NP jobs.
They said some of the reasons suggested for this gap were the need to streamline the NP training pathway, including protected supervised clinical training hours, and ensuring there is a job for prospective NPs at the end of the pathway.
Priority for places in the programmes being offered by Massey and Auckland would be given to applicants in primary health care, aged care and mental health. If successful, it is expected the programme would be opened up to other nursing schools currently offering clinical master's degrees to would-be NPs.
A spokesperson for Coleman's office said the $846,000 funding was not new money but would be "reprioritised" from Health Workforce New Zealand's overall appropriation of $174 million and would be on top of the existing $13 million allocated annually to postgraduate nursing study (including trainee NPs who are not part of the demonstration).
“Nurse practitioners are a valuable resource. They are highly educated and experienced, and are a key part of our health workforce,” said Dr Coleman at the time of the announcement.
As at 31 March 2015, 145 nurse practitioners were registered by the Nursing Council of New Zealand.
(Read more about the programme in the next issue of Nursing Review)