There are now 373 Nurse Practitioners (NPs) in New Zealand, delegates heard at the three-day Nurse Practitioner New Zealand (NPNZ) conference, currently underway in Blenheim.

Mark Baldwin, NPNZ chair and mental health NP welcomed the gathering NPs by telling them that the number of NPs has grown by 88 in the past year.

The first keynote speaker today was the Ministry of Health’s Chief of Nursing Officer Margareth Broodkoorn, who talked about the rapid 25-30 per cent annual growth of the NP workforce in recent years.

Following Broodkoorn was Health Minister Dr David Clark.

Dr Clark, the first Minister to address a NP conference, acknowledged the rapid growth but said “it’s still not quite fast enough for my liking”.

He told delegates that he saw NPs having a very important role in helping the Government meet its health targets, particularly addressing inequities in access to health care.

The Ministry of Health is also financially supporting the NPNZ conference to the same level as the GP’s conference.

College of Nurses executive director Professor Jenny Carryer says the funding support and the Minister’s presence indicate greater recognition of the value Nurse Practitioners add to the healthcare sector.

“We are seeing some degree of moving on from older ways of doing things and historical vested interests.”

In addition to providing a forum for networking and clinical learning, the NPNZ conference is expected to help refocus the journey of Nurse Practitioners in New Zealand.

“It is over 20 years since Nurse Practitioners entered the New Zealand health scene and they have gone from the absolute unknown to a well-accepted, very competent, skilled and growing workforce,” says conference convenor Di Williams.

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