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Rural nurse scholarships scheme extended

Rural nurse scholarships scheme extended

Associate Health Minister Damien O'Connor this morning announced an exciting extension to the government's Primary Health Care Nurse Practitioner (rural) Scholarship scheme.

Speaking at the combined New Zealand Rural GP and Rural Nurse National Network Conference in Christchurch, Mr O'Connor announced that a further six of the scholarships would be awarded in the 2005 academic year, at a cost of $280,000.

The government introduced six of the scholarships last year, but it was not certain if the scheme would continue.

Mr O'Connor today implied it would strengthen every year.

"At this stage, funding for the scheme has been allocated for the 2005 academic year only, but the government believes the scholarships are a vital part of strengthening our rural health team, so has made a commitment to funding it in future years also."

The scholarships allow six registered nurses to take one year off to complete the necessary study to bring their qualifications up to nurse practitioner level, with prescribing competencies.

The nurses receive more than $40,000 each towards their living expenses during their study leave.

"Nurse practitioners with prescribing competencies make a huge contribution to the rural health workforce," said Mr O'Connor. "This scheme recognises that, and it also recognises that nurses in rural areas sometimes have difficulties accessing nursing programmes."

The programme's extension was a welcome addition to an already strong raft of rural health initiatives, Mr O'Connor said.

These included reasonable roster funding to relieve rural doctors and nurses, recruitment and retention funding to address rural workforce issues and the Rural Locum Support Scheme, under which locums allow rural GPs to take regular breaks from practice.

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