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Celebrating 30 years of nursing education

Celebrating 30 years of nursing education in the tertiary sector

Health Minister Annette King attended a dinner and helped celebrate the 30th anniversary of the transfer of nursing education from hospital-based apprenticeship to tertiary education.

It is a privilege and a pleasure to have been invited to speak this evening to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the transfer of nursing education from hospital-based apprenticeship to tertiary education. I want to say thank you to Jan Pearson, national co-ordinator for NETS, for giving me this opportunity and for organising what promises to be an enjoyable evening.

Indeed, this significant milestone - 30 years since the first two nursing programmes were delivered in tertiary education institutions - is well and truly worth celebrating.

The nursing profession really has come a long way in the last century, with plenty of protracted, hard campaigns and battles being won to get to the point we are at today. I congratulate everyone involved in the historic transformation of nursing education, and I hope you all gain a great sense of satisfaction from this evening.

As well as reflecting on past history, as I'm sure many of you will tonight, it is also important to recognise both the present and the future of nursing in New Zealand.

New Zealand is envied by many countries around the world because of the quality of its nursing profession. Our nurses are highly sought after internationally and other nations look to nursing here as a benchmark. Today, all New Zealand nurses enter the profession after completing a degree, while other countries are still fighting for this as a standard. The profession should be proud of itself for being a leader in an international context and setting such a forward-thinking example.

I'm sure you will all agree that it is an exciting time to be part of the nursing profession in New Zealand. The last 10 years give a good illustration of how rapid change can be. We have seen the introduction of nurse-led community services and initiatives, the introduction and rapid growth of information technology and its impact on the delivery of care to patients, and the development of new medical technologies.

In terms of nursing education, I have been very excited by recent developments. The Government's recent significant investments in the primary health care nursing workforce include awarding over 200 nurses studying primary health care nursing, postgraduate scholarships for study.

These scholarships are one of the biggest separate investments the Government has made in New Zealand nurses' education since the 1980s. There was a great deal of interest in these scholarships, which have so far proven successful in helping nurses develop their skills and encourage workforce support and retention. The process has also shown that educational institutes are increasingly recognising the importance of primary health care programmes.

Recipients of another scholarship -- the Primary Health Care Nurses (Rural) Scholarship -- were announced at the end of last year. A one-off funding package of $240,000 was provided to help specially selected rural nurses become nurse practitioners with prescribing rights. This was very timely good news considering the particular challenges facing nurses practicing in rural settings who wish to progress to primary health care nurse practitioner (rural) status.

Building on last year's good news, earlier today my colleague and Associate Health Minister Damien O'Connor announced that a further six scholarships would be awarded in the 2005 academic year, at a cost of $280,000.

The Government believes these scholarships are an integral part of strengthening our invaluable rural health team, and I can confirm that it has made a commitment to funding them in future years also.

In keeping with the exciting developments of today, I am also delighted to announce that a new postgraduate diploma programme is about to begin. The Clinical Training Agency will fund a rural primary health care programme for 40 rural nurses. The Institute of Rural Health and the University of Auckland will jointly offer the diploma, starting in July.

The CTA funding will assist with course fees, travel, and replacement costs for the employer. These special arrangements will help reduce the barriers to rural nurses gaining an advanced qualification. One really important aspect of the programme is that it acknowledges the important contribution of nurses in the rural setting, now and into the future.

The introduction of the role of the Nurse Practitioner in New Zealand's health sector is also a very significant and exciting development. The role of Nurse Practitioner will allow nurses to offer innovative ways of addressing health needs and will include prescribing rights.

At this point I should tell you that on Monday, Cabinet will approve broader prescribing rights for nurses under the new prescriber guidelines.

I know that many of you have been anxiously awaiting the publication of a report to the Ministry of Health from an advisory group about future purchasing of post-entry clinical nurse education programmes. I am told that this document will shortly be published.

Within the Ministry, work continues on the issues raised by the sector reference group. Funding arrangements for post-entry nursing education will be part of a project being carried out by the Ministry of Health and the Tertiary Education Commission.

In today's fast-developing and ever-changing world, it is critical that nurses have access to ongoing educational opportunities. In fact, ongoing education is an expectation of the Health Practitioner Competency Assurance Act.

The nursing sector has been notable for its advocacy of ongoing nursing education and professional development. It is well recognised that nursing skill has an impact on the quality of health and disability services. As this Government continues to build a world-class health system, nurses play a crucial part in carrying out our vision.

It is actually very timely to be celebrating 30 years of nursing education right now, just as the Government's Tertiary Education Strategy is in the process of being implemented.

Key features of this strategy include:

· making the education sector more responsive to the health and other sectors · ensuring that funds allocated to tertiary education are used efficiently · promoting excellence in research capability in tertiary institutions (this has had much publicity in recent weeks as the first results of the Performance Based Research Fund analysis have been published).

I'm sure you all realize that implementation of all the initiatives could have implications for the education and training of nurses. I understand that the Ministry of Health is working with the Tertiary Education Commission to ensure that health courses and health research are appropriately funded. I urge you to participate in the consultation processes that the Ministry will be putting in place on these issues.

One area I am particularly interested in is our new graduate nurses. We have evidence that programmes to support their first year of practice help to improve skills and confidence, as well as recruitment and retention. Those providers who have made programmes for first-year nurses a priority are to be congratulated. If we want a sustainable nursing workforce, then naturally we have to consider the needs of nurses at all stages of their career.

Of course, the nursing degree is just the start of a lifelong journey. I want to acknowledge the many people who have supported their fellow nurses in this journey, especially those who serve as mentors and tutors, supervisors and lecturers. In sharing their own knowledge, these senior nurses encourage and inspire the next generations. They help ensure that the challenges of nursing are balanced by the rewards of the role. Nursing leadership takes place every day in our health services and in our classrooms, and long may it continue.

Finally, I want to applaud all nurses who have moved with the times -- reassessing and evolving their own roles, adapting to these changes and incorporating them into their education and practice to ensure quality health care is delivered to their patients.

As well as celebrating 30 years of nursing education in the tertiary sector, it is nice to also have the chance to congratulate all nurses. I hope you thoroughly enjoy celebrating the progress that has been made in nursing education. Thank you again for inviting me to be part of this special evening.


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