A rural new graduate programme and a workforce stocktake are on the agenda for Rural Nurses New Zealand who today announced their partnership with the Rural General Practice Network.

Rural nurses are gathered with other rural health professionals in Auckland this weekend for the National Rural Health conference where the announcement was made by Rural Nurses New Zealand (RNNZ) chair Rhonda Johnson and the RGPN chair and nurse practitioner Sharon Hansen.

Nurses attending last year’s conference kicked off the creation of RRNZ after a number of nurses expressed concern that the nursing voice had slowly got lost in the RGPN and it was perceived by some as more doctor-focussed.  A working group was set up along with a Facebook page – which now has 270 followers – followed by the election of a working party and an online survey with more than 130 rural nurse participants.

Johnson said today that the group, which was set up to connect, advocate for and promote rural nursing, had looked at a number of partnering options.  She said RGPN had been very supportive of the group’s mission to raise the profile of rural nursing and RNNZ decided to form a partnership with RGPN followed a successful meeting with RGPN and some key rural nursing stakeholders in late March.

Hansen, who co-chaired the March meeting, said the network was looking forward to working together in a partnership for the benefit of rural nurses nationwide. It had also been agreed that a member of RNNZ would be co-opted onto the network’s board.

Johnaon said she was delighted that RNNZ would have a voice at the network board table. “This would make it possible for RNNZ to achieve its vision of a connected New Zealand rural nursing workforce with supported access to education and supervision.”

Hansen said topics discussed at the meeting included establish a rural training pathway for nurses, both face-to-face and online; clinical support and supervision for isolated rural nurses and sustainable national solutions to challenges facing rural nursing.

Johnson told a forum at the conference today that on RNNZ’s agenda was to have a student representative on its working party.  It also remained keen to get better data on the rural nursing workforce with the current Nursing Council data only recording 257 rural nurses which Johnson believed was a gross under-representation of the rural nursing workforce. She said discussions were underway with a University of Otago nurse researcher and RGPN for a research project to establish rural nursing numbers. Discussions were also being held with another research provider over canvassing the sector’s desire for a new graduate programme specifically focused on rural nursing.

Rhoena Davis, a nurse practitioner and member of the RNNZ working party, also spoke at the forum about the impacts of isolating including accessing clinical and professional supervision and the personal costs of pursuing postgraduate study when your closest university can be 7-10 hours drive away.

Johnson said RNNZ was currently working with Mobile Health on looking to address some of these issues including looking at using online teleconferences for professional supervision and ongoing education workshops.  A website was also under development for RNNZ that would be linked through from the RGPN site.

Rural nurses in the past joined together to form the Rural Nurse National Network that operated from 1995 until it merged in 2004 with then Rural GP Network to form the current Rural General Practice Network (RGPN).  A rural nurse specialist, Kirsty Murrell-McMillan, was elected chair of the RGPN in 2008 and NP Sharon Hansen has chaired the network since 2015.






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