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Hodgson: Speech to Enrolled Nurse's Conference

Friday 20 May 2005

Hodgson: Speech to Enrolled Nurse's Conference

Hon Pete Hodgson Closing speech to 27th Annual National Enrolled Nurse Section Conference, 12:30 to 13:00, Friday 20 May, Bestwestern Shoreline Hotel, Timaru Street, Dunedin.

Thank you for inviting me.

I hope you have all enjoyed your time together and have got a lot from what looks to have been an interesting program.

I am pleased to be here. This Government has always recognised the value of Enrolled Nurses and the important part they play in our health workforce. I know that Hon Annette King and Hon Ruth Dyson have endorsed this when they have spoken with you at previous conferences.

We are not alone. For many years the New Zealand population has respected Enrolled Nurses as valuable members of the health care team. You are valued as a group of nurses with particular skills in caring for people who need at some time in their lives health care services.

As Glenda Alexander said, there are many services around the country that would “grind to a halt” if there were not Enrolled Nurses to provide care.

There are currently nearly 4000 Enrolled Nurses and 92 Nurse Assistants with annual practising certificates in New Zealand. This is a significant group in the healthcare workforce.

I realise that many Enrolled Nurses have extensive nursing experience. Enrolled Nurses work closely with the patient and it is apparent that they have the patient’s interests at heart.

The words of Faith Roberts and Robyn Hewlett struck a chord with me: “Patients and families can tell you stories of the nurses who were really with them, during the night, during the long wait for death, or the slow and laborious process of rehabilitation. Many of those stories are about Enrolled Nurses.” They are heartfelt experiences of you and your colleagues. You should be really proud to be an Enrolled Nurse or one of the new Nurse Assistants.

I am aware that retaining the title of “Enrolled Nurse” is of great concern for you. Any change of name affects how we feel about ourselves and how we see ourselves.

Parliament’s Health Select Committee recommended that further discussions take place between the Nursing Council and the NZNO, and this has been agreed upon.

I am pleased that you are continuing discussion on the issue and hope it produces a generally agreed and supported outcome.

The Health Practitioners Competence Assurance Act required the Nursing Council to define the scopes of practice for the second level nurse. As you know, the Nursing Council put forward two scopes – Enrolled Nurse and assistant nurse – which differ in legal title only.

I understand your group is very concerned about the title ‘Nurse Assistant’ for second level nurses that qualified after 2000. You have raised a number of questions about the impact on employment prospects.

For instance, you have been concerned that the new title would cause confusion with unregulated health workers. Under the HPCA Act, the title ‘Nurse Assistant’ will be protected for nurses who have completed the approved programme, because the Nursing Council in this scope has registered the title. In other words, no one can use it unless they are qualified to do so.

You have also wondered whether the title ‘Nurse Assistant’ would cause problems with gaining employment overseas, since the title ‘Enrolled Nurse’ is internationally recognised and accepted. I was pleased to hear recently that two Nurse Assistants from New Zealand achieved employment as Enrolled Nurses in Victoria, Australia.

Some of you will have experienced a change in the areas that you work and I appreciate that this has been really difficult for some of you who have been working in specialised areas of the health service. You may feel that your level of experience is not being acknowledged. However, these changes are not about introducing a new limitation to your practice but about ensuring all Enrolled Nurses are practising in the setting for which they were trained.

Employers are required to comply with the HPCA Act requirement that you work within your scope of practice and they have to make a range of decisions about staff mix and deployment. Decisions they may have made about where you work, or the clients you work with, have therefore not been about the value of your profession.

Enrolled Nurses and health assistants work close to the interface with patients providing:

o professional nursing care to patients with relatively stable and predictable health outcomes
o coordination care in the nursing and interdisciplinary team
o assistance and support in the activities of daily living
o personal and professional dignity and integrity.

As individuals you bring experience, warmth and compassion to your work. The blend of skill, experience and who you are as a person is vital for patients’ healing and wellness.

As some of you will know, the government is an advocate of nurse enrolled training programmes. When hospitals discontinued them - largely because their demands were met already – we were pleased that training was reinstated through Northland and Christchurch Polytechnics. So I was disappointed to hear that numbers have been down this year. The two areas of training – care of the elderly and long-term care and rehabilitation – are very relevant to the health sector.

I hope numbers improve and new second level nurses are brought into the workforce to strengthen your group. If they don't my fear is that second tire nursing will become an endangered species.

Thank you for inviting me to be here.

I hope your conference has been successful and you leave here inspired in your nursing careers.


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