Starting a year of celebration for New Zealand’s nurses

Bring on the celebrations of nursing, writes Margareth Broodkoorn, who points to some recent milestones for the profession.

I am proud to be a nurse in Aotearoa New Zealand and to be a part of nursing in New Zealand as we celebrate the International Year of the Nurse and Midwife. I also acknowledge our midwifery colleagues as they celebrate alongside us.

Margareth Broodkoorn: Chief Nursing Officer
Margareth Broodkoorn: Chief Nursing Officer

And there’s so much to celebrate. Our nursing workforce is as big as it has ever been, and we’re finding ways to better look after our number one customers – our patients, our whānau and families.

As chief nursing officer at the Ministry of Health, I lead a small, incredibly talented team of people, with plenty of experience from their days in nursing practice. We’re all excited about sharing in the International Year of the Nurse and Midwife celebrations.

It was a busy 2019 for us as a profession.

In July, the New Zealand Nursing Council rolled out the registered nurse prescribing programme after a successful pilot with Counties Manukau DHB and Family Planning New Zealand.

This means more people have improved access to healthcare, and speaks right to the heart of one of our core priorities in health – achieving equity and improving access in the system.

Other initiatives that have enabled nursing practice and care include the 2018 legislation that broadened the scope of practice for nurse practitioners and other health professionals, to include activities such as prescribing.

Registered nurse prescribing in the community now complements the great work already under way by nurse practitioners. The changes also show just how well regarded nurses are in our community.

We also saw in 2019 an extension to the Nurses In Schools programme, rolling out to decile 5 schools – giving almost 6000 extra New Zealand children access to a nurse in their school.

We have progressed the Safe Staffing Accord, in which New Zealand Nurses Organisation played a key role, to bolster our workforce, support new graduate nurses and encourage nurses back into practice.

As with anything, there is always more work to be done. But, every day, New Zealand’s nurses continue to make a massive contribution to our communities.

This year, we will be progressing the Safe Staffing Accord and helping DHBs with their plans to implement Care Capacity Demand Management, which we see as the best methodology to match capacity to care for patients.

An influx of new nurses will graduate as a result of further investment last year. Budget 2019 included an extra $24.53 million over four years to fund 482 additional places in the Nurse Entry to Practice programme, in which new graduates transition into the workforce in the first year of practice.

This is to ensure workforce numbers remain strong, and it ensures safer staffing for nurses in public hospitals and other practice settings.

Budget 2019 also earmarked $20 million aimed at boosting the primary mental health nursing workforce, funding an extra 80 places for new graduate nurses seeking to work in mental health and addictions.

Recent campaigns for internationally qualified nurses have been a success, with a healthy number of registrations to the Nursing Council in the year to March 2019. We are now working to ensure we have the right mix of internationally qualified nurses and New Zealand-registered nurses caring for patients.

The 2020 campaign is about promoting nursing as the great career choice that it is, and is also about increasing awareness of exactly what nurses do around the country every day.

International Nurses Day falls on 12 May – to coincide with the birthday of Florence Nightingale, one of the founders of modern nursing. This year, it is the 200th anniversary of her birth.

In Aotearoa New Zealand we will also be acknowledging our nurses who have made a contribution to nursing and healthcare, including indigenous Māori nurses. We recognise nursing and midwifery as distinct professions, and we will be celebrating each via their respective organisations.

Nurses throughout the world will be recognised this year for their hard work. I feel honoured to be part of this global movement to celebrate and promote nursing as a wonderful and rewarding career. I hope our health leaders, clinical colleagues, employers and the community will want to celebrate with us.

As the largest health workforce in the country, we’re as visible as we have ever been; we’re often the first point of contact for patients, and people place great trust in us.

What’s not to celebrate?

Rua mano rua tekau karawhiua mai – 2020: Bring it on.

This article was originally published in New Zealand Doctor.

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