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Funding boost for rural nurse training

Funding boost for rural nurse training

Associate Health Minister Damien O'Connor has welcomed the announcement of a funding package to help specially selected rural nurses become nurse practitioners with prescribing rights.

The one-off package of $240,000 will be used to help clinical nurse specialists in rural practice take one year off to complete all the necessary study to bring their qualifications up to nurse practitioner level, with prescribing rights.

The funding will pay for their salary for the year. District Health Boards will then be able to use the nurses' existing salary to meet the cost of a replacement locum during the time the nurse undertakes study.

"Nurses in rural areas were finding it difficult to meet the necessary criteria to be approved as practitioners because of their isolation and the difficulty getting replacement locums," Mr O'Connor said.

The nurse practitioner role was introduced by the Nursing Council in 2001, and recognises registered nurses as nurse practitioners when they have a clinically focused masters degree or equivalent, have four to five years experience at an advanced level, and have met the Council's assessment criteria and competencies.

Only nurse practitioners may go on to become nurse prescribers. In order to do so, nurses must complete pharmacology and clinical therapeutics courses, as well as 100 hours prescribing practice.

Mr O'Connor said allowing some rural nurses to have time off to complete their qualifications would assist in health delivery in rural areas. "There is a real need for nurse practitioners in rural areas, especially ones that prescribe."

Rural nurses interested in taking up this opportunity will need to apply through and be supported by DHBs. In addition to funding salaries while studying, there will be some assistance for fees and travel costs from the Primary Care Nursing Scholarships Fund.

The funding is part of the rural funding package of $32 million announced last year, to go toward ensuring a better quality of care and better access for people in rural areas. Other initiatives underway include rural workforce retention, developing reasonable rosters, a continued locum scheme and a rural recruitment service.

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