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Canterbury is investing in its nursing workforce


February 26, 2014

Canterbury is investing in its nursing workforce

Canterbury DHB is focusing on its future nursing workforce as part of ensuring a sustainable health system for the region.

In the last three years more than 466 new graduates have signed on to the Canterbury DHB’s Nursing Entry to Practice or New Entry to Specialty Practice Mental Health and Addiction nursing programmes – with 464 graduating from the programmes and many moving into full time nursing roles in the Canterbury Health System.

Mary Gordon, Executive Director of Nursing for Canterbury DHB says Canterbury has had a long history of ensuring new graduate nurses are well supported in their first year of practice.

“Canterbury District Health Board has been steadily increasing its new graduate nursing numbers in preparation for the new builds at both Burwood and Christchurch Hospitals.

In addition to this,  the Regional Directors of Nursing have had a long term strategy to increase graduate nursing numbers as 64 percent of the nursing population are aged over 45 (7893 nurses), and 24 percent of the nursing workforce aged under 40.

“Our Nursing Entry to Practice Programme (NETP) has subsequently doubled the numbers of graduates since 2009, along with the numbers of new graduates working out in the community and primary sector increasing from five in 2011 – up to 12 in 2013. Meanwhile our New Entry to Specialty Practice Mental Health and Addiction Nursing (NESP) has steadily increased from 12 new graduates in 2009 to 40 new graduates in 2014 which is a 233 percent increase.

Mary says Canterbury was also pleased to learn of the Very Low Cost Access (VLCA) Practice Sustainability Initiative released by the Minister of Health, which includes a scholarship fund for new graduate nurses.

Very Low Cost Access payments for primary health organisations were introduced in 2006 as a means of reducing cost barriers, particularly for populations with complex high health needs who do not have the income to support higher fees.

“The Government has provided both a VLCA Practice Sustainability fund, which is ongoing, to help support VLCA practices most in need of sustainability support, as well as granted a one-off scholarship fund for new graduate nurses working within these practices.

“Four Canterbury practices qualified for the Practice Sustainability Initiative. Business cases were prepared and sent to the ministry for consideration and two practices,  Piki te Ora and Te Rawhiti Family Health Centre, were successful in securing the one-off scholarship funding for new graduate nurses and now have two new graduates working within these practices,” Mary says.

Shelley Frost, Director of Nursing, Pegasus Health and Executive Director (Nursing) and Chair, General Practice New Zealand (GPNZ) says the advantages of the scholarships are twofold.

“Firstly, it puts more nursing resource into communities of people with the highest need, and secondly provides career opportunities in the community for new graduates,” Shelley says.

One of the underlying principles of the Canterbury health system is to ensure care is delivered as close to the home as possible.

“We are focusing on ensuring that we provide people access to the right care, and that quality care is delivered within the community and provides a point of ongoing continuity, which for most people will be general practice,” Shelley says.

“The new graduates working within these communities will be assisting with the delivery of primary health care in these high need practice settings with the goal of improving the health care and access to services for patients living in these communities.”


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