Plans to expand the successful Nurse Practitioner Training Programme to more would-be NPs is on hold until 2020.

Health Workforce New Zealand had said it would be put NPTP out to competitive tender in late August for 2019 after a successful evaluation project of the pilot and feedback that the programme should be expanded. But had now decided to roll-over the current funding contract for 20 NPTP places for 2019.

The NPTP, currently offered at only Auckland and Massey universities, is now into its third annual cohort, with selected NPTP students requiring employer support and an NP job awaiting them at the end of the intensive registrar-style programme, which includes two fully funded clinical practicums.

Associate Professor Stephen Neville, College of Deans spokesperson for the five university nursing schools offering a clinical master’s programme leading to NP registration, confirmed there would be no tender process for 2019. “The Council of Deans are working with HWNZ to develop a transparent process that will involve all nurse practitioner programme providers in early 2019 for the 2020 year,” said Neville.

Claire Austin, HWNZ general manager said the decision to roll over the current funding model was made due to the limited time-frame for putting the programme out to tender and the need to provide certainty for next year’s NPTP cohort.

Clare Buckley, acting head of EIT’s nursing school, which is one of three polytechnic clinical master’s providers, said it was “severely disappointed” that HWNZ had decided to go with the status quo for 2019 when it was known that the NPTP was a better system for funding NP training. She said its local Hawke’s Bay Hospital emergency department had five NPs who had all done their qualifications through EIT.

“We’ve got huge models of nurse practitioners locally but absolutely no support whatsoever from the funding to grow our own …and I think that’s a disgrace.”

Currently there are 324 NPs practising in New Zealand (as at Sept 26). Thirteen of the 77 new NPs registered by the Nursing Council in the 2016-17 year were funded and supported under the NPTP scheme.  Dr Michal Boyd, the NP and University of Auckland Associate Professor who was a major instigator of the scheme said to date in total 43 NPTP graduates had gone on to be registered as NPs – 25 during 2017 and 18 so far this year. The 2018 cohort are due to go to their panel interviews in December this year and early next year.

Last year HWNZ was criticised for continuing to expect the majority of NP training to be “done on a shoestring” and relying on the goodwill of medical and NP colleagues to offer clinical mentoring and support. Feedback on the evaluation report of NPTP was that sustainable funding for NP training was important including funding for release time, travel, accommodation and ongoing education.

Austin said the decision to delay was made after consulting with the Council of Deans of Nursing and Midwifery but it would host a working group in February that would an include an invitation to all NP programme providers.

“The purpose of the working group will be to explore future options for funding mechanisms for NPTP for the following academic year (2020),” said Austin. Including considering moving to a model where NPTP funding followed the student, so that university and polytechnic providers could bid for places.”

She said the group could also consider opportunities to combine all nurse practitioner funding streams to “optimise the growth of a work-ready nurse practitioner workforce”. In the lead-up to the February meeting the NPTP programme model would also be shared with all nurse practitioner clinical masters’ programme providers.

The NPTP programme is funded for 500 hour clinical hours of training – two clinical practicums of 250 hours each in advanced nursing practice and advanced diagnostic reasoning. Prospective NPs under standard HWNZ funding do not get full funding support for the clinical training practicum requirement of a clinical master’s programme.

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