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Latest VBS initiative another milestone along the road

February 4, 2014

Latest VBS initiative another milestone along the road

The addition of primary care nursing to the list of hard to staff specialities to be supported by the Voluntary Bonding Scheme is a significant mark along the road to better health services in rural communities, the New Zealand Rural General Practice Network says.

Health Minister Tony Ryall yesterday (February 3) announced that registrations of interest for the 2014 Voluntary Bonding Scheme (VBS) are open and that this year additional hard-to-staff communities and specialties have been introduced for doctors, nurses and midwives. For nurses, the West Coast and South Canterbury are included as hard-to-staff communities, with the addition of primary healthcare as a hard-to-staff specialty.

“The Network has for a long time been flagging the need for further encouragement for nurses to enter into primary care nurse training, with the VBS an important tool to be sharpened,” says Network chairperson Dr Jo Scott-Jones.

“Bonding schemes are only a small part of a career pathway. There remain significant potholes in the road from school, through college, and onto postgraduate careers for nurses who would enjoy and be skilled in working in rural communities, but it is great to see one bump in the road being filled in,” says Dr Scott-Jones.

“We want to congratulate Mr Ryall on this recent announcement - we see it as a sign that the significant issues facing the nursing workforce in primary care are on his agenda.

“The career pathway into primary care nursing is organised with huge variation around the country, with many nursing training schools and institutions focussing graduates on new-to-practice programmes that are targeted in hospital-based care.

“Primary care nursing is an exciting and varied career option for new graduates, and with the right training and support nurses from the point of graduation can have a fascinating and rewarding lifestyle working closely with patients and their families to help acute and chronic illness as well as supporting the intervention of many disease prevention programmes,” says Dr Scott Jones.

There is a paucity of information about the workforce-need in primary care nursing and in December 2013 the Network undertook a survey of members which identified from 52 practices who responded that 25% were actively seeking to fill vacancies for registered nurses, he says.

The 2013 survey also showed that out of 13 practices with nurse vacancies, five also had GP vacancies. One of these rural practices had two GP vacancies.

Network deputy chairperson and Temuka-based Nurse Practitioner Sharon Hansen says the December survey showed the need for experienced registered nurses in many rural practices.

“What is worrying is the areas that need experienced rural-specific nurses and doctors, and where there are gaps for both, the community misses out on both continuity and local knowledge.

“Any loss in the rural health workforce is keenly felt especially nurses who tend to make a long-term commitment to their communities.

“I am glad the Ministry of Health has included South Canterbury and the West Coast in the latest VBS announcement.”


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