HWNZ: Nurses still play pivotal role in healthcare

22 January 2016

Nursing Review asked Health Workforce New Zealand for an opinion piece on HWNZ's recent and future plans and on nursing's role in that work and vision. Chair DES GORMAN and acting director RUTH ANDERSON responded.

The knowledge, skill and commitment of the nursing workforce is a major feature of our health and disability system, and one that we see reflected in healthcare service delivery throughout the country.

Nurses continue to be integral to the sustainability of our health and disability services. As our largest regulated health profession, the nursing workforce is a necessary, dynamic and indispensable part of our healthcare system.

Health Workforce New Zealand (HWNZ), along with the wider Ministry of Health, is committed to maximising the potential for nurses to contribute to improving health outcomes for the New Zealand population. This includes ensuring as many new nurse graduates as possible are employed; supporting enhanced skill development through funding of postgraduate education; developing new roles to support future models of care; addressing regulatory barriers to nursing advancement; and advancing nurse leadership.

Some highlights achieved in the past year include:

  • progression of Designated Nurse Prescribing to allow prescribing rights for registered nurses who deliver healthcare to patients with long-term and chronic conditions
  • development of the Nurse Performing Endoscopies postgraduate training programme, which is due to commence in Semester One of 2016
  • introduction of a revised Nurse Practitioner training programme to be undertaken by 20 nurses in 2016
  • progression of the Health Practitioners (Replacement of Statutory References to Medical Practitioners) Bill, which will allow health practitioners, including nurse practitioners, to undertake activities previously restricted to medical practitioners.

These initiatives represent a substantial and ongoing commitment to enhancing the contribution that nurses make to the care and wellbeing of all New Zealanders. The programme of work will continue to grow the nursing workforce and support nurses to work to the full extent of their scopes of practice.

While New Zealand’s health and disability system works well, we need to continue to adapt the way we do things to better ensure that our health and disability system has the flexibility and resilience it needs in the future. Primary and community healthcare services are a priority. So too, is more integrated and better connected people-centred service delivery. Nurses have a pivotal role to play in both.

Draft Health Strategy not without challenges

The draft Health Strategy, released in late 2015, will guide the future delivery of healthcare services. The Health Strategy has the wellness of all New Zealanders as its key driver and places emphasis upon people empowerment, delivery of services closer to home, the importance of value and high performance, the essential nature of one healthcare team, and the importance of a smart healthcare system. Given the wide and varied contribution to healthcare currently made by nurses, successful implementation of the Health Strategy will be very dependent upon the knowledge, skills and leadership that nurses are able to bring in the future.

Achieving the vision of the Health Strategy will not be without its challenges. New Zealand’s population is aging; chronic and long-term conditions are more prevalent, and health inequalities, particularly amongst Māori and Pacifika communities, persist. For this reason, HWNZ, the Office of the Chief Nurse and the wider Ministry of Health are working in partnership with the National Nursing Organisations Group to maximise the potential of nurses to initiate, and participate in, introduction of new models of care; contribute to integrated multi-disciplinary teams, and demonstrate clinical leadership in multiple healthcare settings. Nurse practitioners, clinical nurse specialists, and the potential introduction of registered nurse prescribers will all be important in furthering the role of nurses and most importantly, increasing patients’ access to healthcare services.

Nursing should play a lead role

The future envisaged in the Health Strategy will require strong and effective system leadership going forward. The Nursing Taskforce, a tripartite sponsorship comprising HWNZ, the Office of the Chief Nurse, and the National Nursing Organisations Group, continues to provide guidance and strategic leadership for the advancement of the nursing workforce. In this, we are grateful to the Taskforce chair, Professor Jenny Carryer, and members of the Taskforce Group.

However, the momentum achieved thus far will need to continue into the future and will require the support of all nurses as well as that of the wider health sector if the vision of a highly performing, future-focused and sustainable profession are to be realised.

More than ever before, nurses can, and should, play a lead role in shaping the future of healthcare service delivery. To do so, nurses need to be actively engaged in change; foster and support knowledge and skill development that enables nurses to increase patients’ access to high quality healthcare, and demonstrate and promote strong clinical leadership within multi-disciplinary team environments. Nurses have a critical part to play in ensuring the future viability and sustainability of New Zealand’s healthcare system and HWNZ remains committed to supporting nurses in this.


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