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Nurse shortage fears prompt call for mentored programs

Oct 20th, 2014 | By | Category: Latest News

NZNO members, student nurses, unemployed new grads, registered and enrolled nurses present petition to parliament

CALL FOR ACTION: NZNO members, student nurses, unemployed new grads, registered and enrolled nurses present the petition to parliament. Photo Credit: NZNO

A FUTURE shortage of nurses has prompted calls for a new mentoring programme.

The New Zealand Nurses Organisation has presented parliament with an 8000 signature petition asking for a year’s mentorship for every new graduate.

The Nurse Entry to Practice programme makes sure students are supported and mentored by other registered nurses while continuing their professional development.

“The concern for us as an organisation is sometimes they find work that isn’t in a mentored program and in an environment where there are insufficient other registered nurses to provide them with support and mentorships,” Hilary Graham-Smith, spokesperson for the New Zealand Nurses Organisation, says.

She says with an ageing population who will be more dependent on health care, and with baby boomer nurses starting to retire in 5-10 years, a proper workforce plan is needed.

In an interview with One News in August, former Health Minister Tony Ryall says they have employed extra nurses in hospitals, but the small numbers leaving is an issue.

Under the current employment system known as Advanced Choice of Employment (ACE), designed to help nursing graduates find work, some are still struggling.

The Nurse Education in the Tertiary Sector report released in March, showed 69% of last year’s graduates were employed as registered nurses here and overseas.

This figure has consistently decreased from 75% in 2013 and 81% in 2012.

Of those employed as registered nurses this year, 78% are in a new graduate programme.

Briana Form showing off her registered nurse ID card

HAPPY TO HELP: Briana Forman is happy to be working a registered nurse.

Briana Forman, who graduated in 2012, says she was led to believe the ACE system would give students a better chance of getting a job, but did not find that to be the case.

After an unsuccessful first round and not wanting to wait another 7 months like many of her classmates, she found it easier to get a job in Australia.

“I didn’t want to sit around and not use my skills. I wanna go straight into nursing, I don’t want to have a break and work in a café,” she says.

Within two weeks of contacting a hospital in Australia, Miss Forman got a job and moved to Canberra.

She says moving to Australia was not easy.

She had to learn a new health system, and is being charged nearly $2000 interest on her student loan for using her skills overseas.

“I feel like this is a huge disservice because I would be over here using my nursing skills had there been greater job opportunities available,” she says.

Although frustrated with the system she feels New Zealand is missing out as they have the better training programme.

However, Hilary Graham-Smith, from New Zealand Nurses Organisation says the ACE system is the “luck of the draw”, with the February intake successfully placing only 233 graduates out of 640 applications.

“Some seem to gain employment quite quickly, whereas we do hear of new graduates languishing looking for work,” she says.

Sue Hayward, Director of Nursing and Midwifery for the Waikato District Board, disagrees saying the electronic system matches students with a DHB, and following an evaluation they will be offered the job that fits best.

“We can be assured as a DHB or as an employer that when we do a job offer the likelihood is that nurse is going to accept. We don’t have to worry about scrambling around trying to find someone else to fill that gap,” she says.

Ms Hayward acknowledges that not getting a job straight way is incredibly stressful.

“It is a our aim as Directors of Nursing to employ as many new graduates as we possibly can afford to,” she says.

Students are able to apply for positions outside of the ACE system but most found that those jobs required a year’s experience or did not offer a mentored program.

The concern is non-mentored programs may put graduates in compromised or clinically unsafe situations.

“If they want to have a good foundation to base the rest of their nursing career on I would strongly recommend that they did everything they possibly could to get into these programmes”, Ms Hayward says.

After last year’s figures showed one in three students were not able to find work the Health Minister denied too many people were being trained.

Professor Annette Huntington, Head of Nursing at Massey University agrees, saying because there will be a shortage in the future they are not training too many nurses.

She says the university puts a self imposed cap on enrolments at 115 to ensure they offer a quality program.

Lecturers try to be realistic when telling students about the job market but not so much as to discourage them.

The current Health Minister Dr Jonathan Coleman was unavailable for comment.

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