Snapshot survey shows nurses missing out

3 October 2016

About 30 per cent of postgraduate nursing students are self-funding their studies a snapshot survey has revealed.

The survey, carried out on behalf of the National Nursing Organisations (NNO) leaders group, also found a number of self-funding students were unaware they were eligible for government funding support or felt discouraged from applying.

The survey, responded to by more than 500 postgraduate nursing students, was prompted by the NNO wanting to assess whether the current about $12.9 million allocated to the Health Workforce New Zealand (HWNZ) postgraduate nursing funding pool was adequate.

Professor Jenny Carryer, an NNO spokesperson and executive director of the College of Nurses Aotearoa, said postgraduate education helped improve not only competency but nursing's ability to respond to future health needs.  She said at present HWNZ was consulting on how the approximately $170 million of its $200 million annual funding that was invested in postgraduate medical training was spent and nursing was keen for HWNZ postgraduate nursing funding to be "properly aligned" so nurses could contribute effectively to the changes required by the updated New Zealand Health Strategy.

The majority of survey respondents worked in DHB acute and community services (combined 60%), followed by primary health care (17.61%), DHB 'other' (6.25%), residential care (6%), private hospitals (just under 4%) and Maori health providers 2%.

Overall 82 per cent of respondents reported that they had applied for HWNZ funding and 18% had not. Of those who had applied 88% were successful.

Carryer said this indicated that 30% of postgraduate students were self-funding their study  (i.e. the 18% who didn't apply but were studying plus the 12% declined but still studying). Self-funding options reported were most typically using personal funds, employer contributions and student loans.

Respondents who had not applied for HWNZ funding were asked to explain why and 91 people responded.  Carryer said the three main reasons (in order of prevalence) were:

  • Being unaware that funding was actually available until seeing this survey
  • Being actively discouraged from applying or feeling discouraged as they thought it was pointless.
  • Considering the application process was too hard or they were not linked to a PDRP (professional development recognition programme) as required in some settings.

Carryer said one respondent noted that she worked in aged care earning $21.50 per hour, did not know of her eligibility for funding and was self-funding to improve her practice.

Partial funding was also noted with some respondents reporting they were only funded for one of the two papers they were taking.  Other funded students commented that they had invested considerable amounts of personal funds into travel and accommodation because of their distance from their education provider.

"Nursing innovation and increased contribution is ideally underpinned by appropriate postgraduate education," said Carryer.  "Clearly there is room for a much greater national investment." 

HWNZ postgraduate funding is available to registered nurses working for a government-funded health service such as a district health board, rest home or primary health care provider. To find out more about funding priorities and eligibility, nurses can contact their local DHB’s postgraduate nursing education coordinator.

HWNZ funded papers (by qualification)*

  • Postgraduate certificate (about 56%)
  • Postgraduate diploma (about 24%)
  • Master of Nursing (about 20%)

HWNZ funded papers (by specialty)*^

  • Primary health care – including aged care (about 31%)
  • Rural health (about 6%)

*Statistics provided by HWNZ in August 2016 in response to Nursing Review request for more details of how postgraduate nursing funding pool was spent

^ NB: HWNZ reported that for many of the nursing postgraduate papers it was not possible to attribute papers to a specific specialty area. For example a nurse doing an advanced health assessment paper or a prescribing paper could be working in any number of nursing specialties. 


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