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Milestone for Nurse Practitioners


     Media Release

      11 December 2009

Milestone for Nurse Practitioners

The role was misunderstood when first introduced, but eight years to the day since New Zealand’s first nurse practitioner (NP) was registered, the role is flourishing.

New Zealand now has 63 highly trained nurse practitioners, with numbers growing rapidly. Chief Nurse Mark Jones says that is good news for the health sector.

“NPs are playing an increasingly important role in helping New Zealand meet the challenges facing the health system,” he says. “They provide a sustainable and expert workforce that’s flexible and provides great value for money. We need more of them.”

NPs are registered nurses with advanced training and experience. They must have a clinically focused Masters Degree and at least four years nursing experience. They practise both independently and in collaboration with other health care professionals to promote health, prevent disease and to diagnose, assess and manage people’s health needs. They assess and treat patients and some are able to prescribe medicines.

“Embedding the nurse practitioner role into our health system hasn’t been plain sailing – there have been a lot of challenges along the way,” says Mark Jones. “It’s a real milestone to reach this number in just eight years, and we are incredibly proud of all those nurses who have been pioneers in this demanding new role.”

The Ministry of Health and the DHB-led Future Worklforce NP Facilitation programme today launch the 2009 Nurse Practitioner resource kit to promote the role of NPs within the health sector and to the general public.
The kit includes two publications – Nurse Practitioners: A future for New Zealand, and NP Innovations - a dedicated web page, six posters and a flyer.

Nurse Practitioners: A healthy Future for New Zealand celebrates the first 50 nurse practitioners with photographs and personal stories about what it means to be an NP. NP Innovations reports on 13 initiatives that formed part of a project to increase the number of NP role throughout the country, and reduce barriers to employment.

The publications and resource kit can be downloaded from the Ministry of Health and DHBNZ websites http://www.moh.govt.nz/moh.nsf/indexmh/nurse-practitioners-a-healthy-future-for-nz or http://www.nursepractitioner.org.nz

For media inquiries please contact Emily Barrett on 027 445 2261

Questions and Answers

Who was New Zealand’s first NP?
Waikato-based neonatal nurse Deborah Harris made history when, as a 39 year old mother of two, she became the country’s first NP on 11 December 2001.  Described at the time by neonatal paediatrician Dr Phil Weston as a “mover and shaker and a great role model for other nurses” Deborah Harris is now completing a PhD on neonatal hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar levels).

How does an NP actually function?
NPs provide a wide range of assessment and treatment interventions, including differential diagnoses, ordering, conducting and interpreting diagnostic and laboratory tests and administering therapies for the management of potential or actual health needs. They work in partnership with individuals, families, whanau and communities across a range of settings.

Why does New Zealand need NPs?
NPs are highly experienced health professional working to improve health and to reduce inequalities in health. They are a key component of the health and disability workforce of the future, with the potential to improve health status and to reduce the national burden of chronic disease.

Why are NPs important to our health system?
It is widely acknowledges that there is a worldwide shortage of skilled healthcare workers. They combine the best of nursing with many of the skills from medicine. They free up doctors to work on more complex cases, providing a sustainable solution to ongoing workforce shortages. NPs are a new and smarter way of making the best use of our healthcare resources.

What are the benefits of NPs?
NPs work across a wide range of settings, often in rural and remote communities, ensuring our communities have greater equity of access to expert healthcare. Their qualifications and expertise mean they can order diagnostic tests and x-rays, and many can prescribe medicines.

Are NPs used elsewhere in the world?
Although NPs are relatively new in New Zealand, some countries, including the USA and Canada, have had NPs for up to 40 years. The Australian NP role was introduced in 2001; the English Nurse Practitioner has different training from that required in New Zealand and is not regulated.

ends

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