Nursing forum readying for "radical shift"

13 April 2017

Readying nursing for a "radical shift" to meet future health challenges is the topic for a one-day forum next week being attended by the country's top nursing leaders.

The 'call to action' forum in Wellington on 20 April is being called by the National Nursing Organisation (NNO) group to focus on how nursing will respond to the New Zealand Health Strategy and fast-moving technological changes.

Professor Jenny Carryer, the chair of the NNO group, says while nursing has made significant progress in recent years a "radical shift" was still needed to ensure nursing was equipped to embrace the future.

Forum invites went out to the leaders of the national nursing organisation groups (including professional and regulatory bodies), members of the Health Workforce New Zealand nursing governance group and some 'movers and shakers' in the health sector. Carryer said the forum numbers had been kept small because of the venue size and to allow those present to fully participate but organisers were also aware that that meant a lot of people who could have made a valuable contribution were not able to attend.

She said the forum was regarded as an initial conversation to explore ideas and first steps in how nursing could respond to the Health Strategy with its focus on early intervention while dealing with persisting health inequalities and a growing and ageing population. 

The forum follows in the wake of the Ministry of Health's two-day New Zealand Health Symposium in late February, which looked at the impact of fast moving technologies and 'disruptive innovation' on the delivery of health 

The Director General of Health will also attend the nursing forum to talk about health in the context of change and forum sessions will include looking at a video on 'exponential change', discussing what the healthcare world could look to a patient/client in 2030 and what nursing needs to do differently to help people get the health care they want and need.

A nursing touch still needed?

Carryer said the Ministry's February symposium made clear that one massive impact of technology will be on workforce needs.

She said one recurrent theme of the symposium was the ability for technology to now do with greater speed and greater accuracy some of the investigative and diagnostic work currently done by humans. Also that more and more health care would be delivered via a smartphone.

But she wondered whether more and more people receiving their health care at the end of a smartphone might mean more effective nursing was needed to help moderate the effects of isolation and loneliness and to help people with poor health literacy to understand and get access to all that a smartphone can offer.

She said she actually saw a great need for nurses in the future to act as "navigators" or "partners" to help people access health care and live a better lifestyle. 

"And no matter how much technology we get people are still going to die and need the care, support and symptom management and all of those things that go with that time of life."

The forum was an opportunity for nurses to shift thinking to ensure it was a purpose fit workforce to meet the challenges of new models of care – co-designed with the people who need them – in health settings outside the traditional places of care and to move from a illness focus to a prevention focus.

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