The country is crying out for more nurses, bringing in even more from overseas. How about we think about training them faster?
Nurses are in demand in New Zealand like never before. Medical advances mean the population is living longer and living healthier, and nurses are the glue that holds the health business together.
But we’re short of nurses.
Each year around 1500 school leavers like you start studying nursing at one of the 18 universities or polytechnics providing undergraduate nursing training.
About 1000 of these will make it through and get employed, most often in a local DHB as these organisations really control the number of graduates they take on. When their books look bad, nursing numbers can drop. This was the basis of the nursing strikes recently.
Some 41,000 nurses work in NZ, however our training can’t keep up with demand and for each of the last 15 years the country has signed on more overseas trained nurses than locally trained ones.
And we’re not on our own with skinny nursing numbers. The United States is going to be short of 1.1 million nurses by 2020, and Australia is going to be short of 85,000 nurses by 2025. Our graduates will always be in demand overseas too.
Can the structure be changed?
The most common pathway into nursing is the three-year Bachelor of Nursing degree. It’s a mix of study and clinical placements designed to produce graduates who are eligible to be registered by the Nursing Council in NZ.
So what if nursing was offered as a two-year course, with the same amount of teaching? Could make sense. And, it’s happening over in Australia.
The University of Tasmania offers a two-year Bachelor of Nursing degree in two central Sydney campuses and it’s home campus in Hobart, while still giving students 22 weeks of practical clinical placements.
Same content, shorter course
The two-year nursing degree operates on a trimester model, so students can fast-track their degree by cutting out the long university breaks. They fit the same content into a shorter timeframe, making it a little more intense but for students wanting to get qualified and underway faster, it suits them better.
The degree also allows students to select from a list what clinical placements they would like to be considered for. These clinical placements over two-, four- and six-week blocks are arranged with the university’s partners which don’t just host student placements, but are also very involved in shaping and delivering the course content.
So, could a two-year Nursing programme be a started in New Zealand? It would likely need a DHB wanting to grow their own pipeline of new nurses plus a training institution with vision and a will to try a different path.
With the growing demand for new nurses, it could be a smart initiative whose time may have arrived.