NZNO's Blog

Give nursing grads a fair go

3 Comments

By NZNO member leader and nursing student Phoebe Webster, as part of the Shout Out campaign.

nzno-students-30Pictured- Phoebe Webster, 3rd year nursing student.

“I am a 25 year old nursing student in my 3rd and final year of nursing study, and looking forward to starting my professional career. By the time I finish my Bachelor of Nursing (BN) I will have completed over 1100 hours of approved supervised practice. I will have spent countless more hours attending practice laboratories, clinical preparation sessions, lectures, tutorials, guest speaker sessions and workshops as compulsory components of my BN degree. After completing this I will sit my state final exam and, all going well, will become a Registered Nurse (RN).

My course is designed to make sure I am a safe, competent, innovative, and articulate nurse. It means that I can work in different parts of the health care sector and improve health outcomes for local, national and global communities. But there is still a steep learning curve going from a student nurse to confidently performing all of responsibilities of an RN.

The Nurse Entry to Practice/Specialist Practice (NEtP/NESP) 1 year programme provides new graduate nurses with an invaluable introduction into the healthcare system. It’s really crucial support for us going through this steep learning curve. It provides a safe and supportive environment for graduate nurses to slowly transition into the responsibilities of a competent registered nurse. This crucial support is sadly not available to all graduates however, and I can’t help wondering how I will fare in this competitive race for employment after my state finals. Only around half of graduates manage to get a NETP position in the first year, and the job opportunities for new graduates outside of the programme can be limited- everywhere wants ‘experience’, but how can we safely obtain it?

More funding is needed to provide these NEtP and NESP placements for new graduates. Sure, it is possible to enter the workforce without a NEtP position, but why make this transition less safe and harder for new grads?

More highly trained nurses are exactly what our complex healthcare system needs. Comorbidities, where patients have many related and often serious health problems going on at the same time are common. Nurses now deal with complicated care under widening scopes of practise. Making sure these new scopes are adequately prepared for and supported is vital for future workforce planning.

Other professions in New Zealand are supported to train and transition slowly into their jobs. When entry to training is regulated with supervised progression, people who come out the other end are better recognised as highly skilled professionals. Take the police force for example. In New Zealand new police undertake extensive entry requirements and progress through a (paid) training programme and are then placed in supported roles in different areas of the police force. Builders have apprenticeships which provide many hours of supervised, supported time on the job. Should the same on the job support and continued supervised learning not be available to all nursing graduates, not just the lucky ones?

The NEtP programme is based on many other successful and effective new graduate programmes around the world. Benefits include transferability of skills recruitment and retention of New Zealand nurses. I really, really want to be the best nurse that I possibly can. After sitting my state final exam this year in November it worries me that I may be entering the workforce without the support in place to give me a fighting chance to achieve that quickly. Building the strong, competent nurses of tomorrow is something I see as worth investing in. It’s a profession that I have invested in, in every way, and hope to continue to do so throughout my life. All I’m asking for is that my country supports me a little bit more, to help support them.”

NETP (Nursing Entry to Practice) and NETSP (Nursing Entry to Specialty Practice) key stats

  • There were 1455 applicants in total in the November end of year pool in 2016.  Of these 1303 were NETP applicants and 152 were NESP applicants.
  • There were 151 applicants indicating they were repeat applicants (128 NETP and 23 NESP) and 1304 (1175 NETP and 129 NESP) who indicated they were first time applicants. (Note: 1274 applicants said they completed their degree at the end of 2016.)
  • There were 121 second time applicants, 26 third time applicants and 4 fourth time applicants.
  • Only 52% of NETP applications were employed as at the 25th of November 2016, and 65% of NESP applicants were employed by the same date
  • Of the remaining applicants in the NETP pool, 605 were unmatched, 17 withdrew, were declined, or did not finish their degree. In the NESP pool, 53 were unmatched and 1 either withdrew, was declined or did not finish their degree.

That’s 658 New Zealand qualified nurses who wanted further on the job support but didn’t have NETP/NESP placements to go to at the end of last year. With a nursing workforce shortage hitting us right now, NZNO believes we need a placement for every new grad.

3 thoughts on “Give nursing grads a fair go

  1. This is the main reason why we should have retained the “in hospital” training. We trained at the patient’s bed side, watching and learning all aspects of learning from experienced nurses. We also had our “study blocks”, which allowed us to learn our “theory of nursing” (anatomy, physiology, psychology, medication, etc). Even so, after three years and three months training and passing our State Final Exams; we did not feel confident as Staff Nurses, until we had worked for about one year in that role. experience is the best teacher in all jobs. We were also paid (small wages admittedly) while we were training. Uniforms and board were provided, so that we did not have the problem of having to have a part time job to make ends meet, no expensive rent to pay, no car to run, no parking to pay for and no need to wonder where our next meal would come from.
    We did have to work six days a week, morning, afternoon or night duty ( after our initial six weeks in Preliminary School, where we learned the basics of patient care, such as, bed bathing a patient, giving injections, how to position patients in bed for various medical or surgical conditions, how to safely administer medicines, take vital recordings (with equipment that most nurses would not know how to use in this modern age), how to sterilise and clean stainless steel bedpans and washbowls (which was our main job for the first few weeks on the ward); and how to make beds, so that they didn’t fall to pieces as soon as a patient got into them (we didn’t have fitted sheets in those days either, hospital corners were what kept sheets on the beds, not elastic.
    We worked at least six weeks in each branch of nursing, on a rotating basis, which meant that we gained a lot of experience during our training. We were assured of a job for at least a year, following our training, as we had to commit to working for a year in our training hospital, or repaying some of our training expenses. This meant that our hospitals had an experienced nurse to work for them for at least one year, less staffing problems and we were employed.
    We were told of this new plan in our final year (in 1967), and we all said that it was a backward step for patient care; but hey, we always have to follow America, even when they have admitted that their way doesn’t work. So here we are, with Registered Nurses who know only about the branch of nursing in which they have specialised and do not have very much General Nursing experience.
    We should go back to the old proven methods, but sadly, we don’t have nurses with experience in patient care (such as making beds, giving a satisfactory bed wash, or even anyone who knows the easiest and most comfortable (for the patient), to get a post op patient in and out of bed. Believe me! I have been on the receiving end and have taught more than one RN on the spot, to save myself unwanted pain.
    I feel sorry for new grads, because I believe that they a getting a raw deal and deserve better. I also believe that our patients deserve better care than they are receiving.

  2. Hi there. I feel that all graduate nurses should have the opportunity for NETP it should be made available for every student nurse. I really don’t understand why it isn’t. Create some funding to support us students who have done the 3 years worth of study to actually get somewhere!

  3. Thanks so much for writing this excellent article Phoebe. We know our nation needs all the nurses we are training, we also know that new nurses need support and nurturance, and this is what the new grad programme does. The programme needs to be fully funded for all new nurses. This year is election year, so now is the time for everyone to talk to their local MPs and candidates for parliament, to ask for support to progress a commitment to funding in the new government – Best wishes, Craig.

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