A new chair has been elected for Nurse Practitioners New Zealand as the number of nurse practitioners practising around the country tops 200 for the first time.
Dunedin nurse practitioner Mark Baldwin was voted in as the new Chair Elect of NPNZ at the annual general meeting on October 14.
Outgoing Chair Jane Jeffcoat said at the AGM NPNZ also welcomed three new members bringing its membership up to 150 or about 75% of the country's active NPs.* She said the number of active NPs (i.e. with annual practising certificates) topped 200 for the first time in early September and NPNZ was aware of quite a few new NPs who had been registered since.
Jeffcoat, who became Chair Elect in 2014, said the recent growth in numbers had been helped by the Nursing Council's streamlining of the NP registration portfolio and assessment panel process.
She said another welcomed new development, that former NPNZ chair Dr Michal Boyd was key in, was the dedicated NP training programme that was piloted by the University of Auckland and Massey University this year and was likely to be widened to more nursing schools next year. It was hoped that the streamlined process and more focused clinical masters NP training programme would see fewer nurses 'drop off' between completing their clinical masters and submitting their registration portfolios to Council for a panel assessment.
Jeffcoat, who will stay in the role of outgoing chair for the next 12 months as Baldwin transitions into the new role, said an ongoing focus for NPNZ is there still remains inequities across district health boards in NPs' ability to practice to their full scope. For example in some DHBs NPs are restricted in what diagnostic tests they can order or what referral pathways they can use. "This not only means that NPs can't work to the highest level they can within their scope of practice but many NPs feel they are not providing the access to care for their patients that they could if they were working in another DHB." She said it would be working with the Office of the Chief Nurse at the Ministry of Health to look at local solutions to those barriers and also the different DHB approaches to developing NP roles.
Clarifying NP role as RN prescribing gets underway
Clearly articulating the major differences between the advanced practice role of nurse practitioner and registered nursing prescribing will be another role for NPNZ with the arrival of RN prescribing.
Jeffcoat says not only NPs but clinical nurse specialists and prescribing registered nurses will also need to be able to educate the public about what their roles are and the difference between them.
"The NP role is far more than just being a nurse that can prescribe – being able to prescribe medications is just another string to our bow," says Jeffcoat. "Nurse practitioners diagnose, we manage complex patient situations and presentations, we can admit and discharge and yet more powers will come on board once the Health Practitioners (Replacement of Statutory References to Medical Practitioners) Bill is enacted." (see other story)
The new NPNZ chair elect Mark Baldwin trained in England as a mental health nurse before moving to New Zealand in 2008 and registering as a nurse practitioner (NP) in 2013. He is employed by the Southern District Health Board, and works as an NP with community mental health clients.
*Jeffcoat said NPNZ when responding to consultation documents also canvases non-member NPs so its submissions speak for the vast majority of NPs and has encouraged submissions from NPs who are experts in the relevant practice area being consulted on.