Hospitals and healthcare practices in South Canterbury are eagerly awaiting an influx of registered nurses soon to graduate from Ara’s Timaru campus.

These 15 graduating students, who sat their final-year state exams this week, are the first cohort of Bachelor of Nursing graduates from Ara Institute of Canterbury in Timaru.

Ara began offering the bachelor’s degree at the Timaru Campus in 2018, in response to community demand, positioning the institute as the health training hub in South Canterbury.

Now, three years on, there has been a large increase in application numbers for Timaru’s Bachelor of Nursing programme, demonstrating the high level of demand from within the community.

Karen Edgecombe, Ara’s Academic Manager Department of Health Practice says, “Having the Bachelor of Nursing degree based at Ara’s Timaru campus has provided the opportunity for students to participate in high-quality nursing education in their hometown.

The students have been given the opportunity to embed their nursing practice into the South Canterbury experience, which will assist them in their transition to Registered Nurse practice.”

She says the programme’s success can be partly attributed to the success of the collaborative relationship between Ara and the South Canterbury District Health Board (SCDHB), which provides clinical placements for the students during their studies.

“We would not have been able to do this without the ongoing support and assistance of the SCDHB and we are thankful to their staff for their continuing support and encouragement of the nursing students to provide high-quality nursing and health care experiences.”

Anna Wheeler, Associate Director of Nursing and Midwifery at SCDHB, says the sector is excited to see local graduates employed into practice.

“Over the last 5 years, new graduate recruitment has grown significantly, from approximately 8-10 per year, to around 18-20. Placement areas of practice have grown to include ICU, ED, theatre, and paediatrics which have traditionally not received graduates. Across our sector we are seeing significant growth in graduate recruitment in aged care, primary care, and mental health.”

The World Health Organisation named 2020 ‘The year of the nurse’ and with the COVID-19 global pandemic the nursing profession has taken centre stage. “With our local pipeline Ara graduates, we look forward to the continued growth of the profession, and in particular, our continued work towards management of the current COVID-19 pandemic,” Wheeler says.

She says Ara’s degree programme in Timaru helps to develop local talent and retain graduates in South Canterbury. “SCDHB and Ara are aware that if we ‘grow our own’, meaning local people becoming nurses, most will stay local. This means that the community benefits from receiving services from nurses who know our community and are aware of our unique South Canterbury health priorities.”

When graduates enter the South Canterbury sector as new nurses, they are supported by the SCDHB’s new graduate programme to provide a smooth transition into practice, says Wheeler. “Preceptor feedback indicates employees love working with graduate nurses, as they consistently demonstrate a high quality of practice as evidence of their quality of educational preparation.”

Gail Foster, Coordinator Timaru and tutor of the Timaru programme has observed the progress of her students from day one.

“As part of the teaching team supporting the students, I am very proud of their dedication, commitment, and achievement. I am confident they will make a difference to health care delivery in our region and look forward to them being a registered nurse colleague. It has been a privilege to be part of their learning journey.”

The graduating students have received job offers conditional on passing the Nursing Council of New Zealand State final examinations. Once advised of the outcome of their external examinations in mid-December the graduating students will commence employment as a registered nurse in January 2021.



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