Interest in enrolled nursing programmes is very mixed across the country, with nursing schools reporting employment rates varying from poor to very good.
The findings of the informal Nursing Review survey are backed by graduate destination surveys that indicate that just over a third (37-38.5 per cent) of the last three enrolled nursing cohorts had a nursing job within three months (compared with about 60 per cent of registered nurse graduates surveyed at the same point by nurse educator group NETS.)
Nursing Review surveyed all nursing schools offering the 18-month Diploma in Enrolled Nursing and found good interest in areas where schools reported supportive local district health boards and medium to poor interest in areas where local EN employment rates were low. About 120 to 150 enrolled nurse graduates are registered each year by the Nursing Council, but graduate numbers are not enough to maintain and grow the enrolled nurse workforce, which has declined from 3,385 practising ENs in 2010 to 2,737 in 2016.
The April newsletter of the Office of the Chief Nurse (OCN) noted that employment of new graduate enrolled nurses was "variable" across the country and pointed out that the 2017 Ministry of Health Regional Service Planning Guidance makes clear that regions should know about their workforces in training (including ENs) and have plans to employ them. The OCN also reported that Waikato and Capital & Coast DHBs had again begun recruiting enrolled nurses to work in mental health settings.
Currently eight of the 17 nursing schools that offer undergraduate nursing degrees are also offering the 18-month Diploma in Enrolled Nursing. A further two schools used to offer the diploma but have discontinued it.
Dr Cathy Andrew, head of nursing at Ara Institute of Canterbury (formerly CPIT which was one of the first schools to offer enrolled nurse training) said it was expecting its March intake this year to be about half the size of last year.
One of the newest programmes is at Otago Polytechnic and head of nursing Ian Crabtree said it had good interest for its latest intake, which got underway in February with 26 students. He said its first intake graduated in December last year, with all 12 passing their state final exam and to date eight had gained nursing positions. Six were employed by district health boards, one in primary health and one in palliative care.
Dr Sally Dobbs, head of nursing at Southland's SIT, said it had great interest in its 20 EN places year due to good support from the local DHB. "All graduates who are looking for employment have got jobs."
Whitireia New Zealand reported that interest in its once a year EN intake of 30 students had been less than expected and support by local employers had been poor for EN graduates.
Willem Fourie, head of nursing at MIT in South Auckland, said interest was high for its EN intake with many applications for the around 35 places. But he added that while the local DHB was supportive of the EN programme graduates still struggled to find employment though some did find employment in primary health organisations and community settings. "It is important to monitor employment and to match intakes against job opportunities," said Fourie.
In the Waikato there was also good application numbers with Glennis Birks, Wintec's undergraduate nursing manager, reporting high interest for its 2016 EN intake of about 30 students and similar interest being shown for the upcoming 2017 intake. She said graduates were well supported by both the DHB and other Waikato employers and about 15-20 per cent of the EN graduates move into the Bachelor of Nursing programme.
The enrolled nurse diploma is only offered on UCOL's Whanganui campus and head of nursing Penny O'Leary said it had filled 13 of the potential 24 places in its last intake. She reported that the local DHB was very supportive and looked for opportunities to employ ENs and some rest homes had also employed its graduates.
Unitec was unable to respond to Nursing Review's request by the deadline but in September last year it had 29 students enrolled in its diploma.
Jane Anderson of NorthTec said it stopped offering the diploma after its second intake in March 2013. Employment rates had been low for graduates with very little interest being shown by the local DHB or the aged care sector in adding ENs to the skill mix. But she added there had recently been more interest from the DHB so it might offer the programme again in 2018
Brighid McPherson, head of nursing at Toi Ohomai (formerly Waiariki) said it had discontinued its EN programme because placements had been difficult to secure and also because iwi stakeholders believed the RN scope of practice better suited the needs of local Māori health consumers.
1993 Hospital-based enrolled nurse programmes end.
2000 Government initiates return of EN programmes.
2002 First one-year, narrow-scope EN programmes start.
2004 Title for new programme graduates changed to nurse assistant.
2008 Advisory group calls for higher, generic scope 'second level' nurse
2009 Minister calls for "return" of EN. Nursing Council consults and agrees on EN title & broader scope
2010 New Zealand's 3000 ENs given a year to transition to new broader EN scope
2012 First graduates of new 18-month Diploma of Enrolled Nursing
Number of practising ENs