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An increase in new graduate placements over the same time last year is being welcomed by the acting Chief Nursing Officer, whose team is now working on options for ensuring all new graduates find work.

Statistics released this week show that nearly 83 per cent of ACE new graduate applicants from November last year had nurse entry to practice (NETP) or nurse entry to specialist practice (NESP) positions by July – up on 71 per cent at the same time last year.

Dr Jill Clendon, the acting Chief Nursing Officer, said the nursing sector had worked really hard to employ more than 1100 of the 1357 applicants. She said one of the three commitments under the new Safe Staffing accord signed last month was exploring options for providing employment and training for all nursing graduates – with a report due with the Minister by the end of November.

Clendon said full new graduate employment had been a policy of the National Nursing Organisation’s (NNO) group for some time and, while it would be a challenge, a body of work had already been done and the latest ACE stats showed that things were already on the right track.

She said the annual New Graduate Destination survey carried out by the nurse educator group indicates about 3 per cent of graduates did not seek nursing work on graduation. So the statistics were indicating that of the about 1,900 new nurses graduating annually that around 9 per cent (less than 200) were unable to find a job through NETP, NESP or in the private sector within a year of graduating.

Clendon said the ACE statistics showed that DHBs were already employing over and above their funded positions but the Accord was above and beyond the DHB sector so it would be looking to work closely with other employers in the sector to support them to offer NETP placements to new graduate registered nurses. It would also be looking at offering supported practice options for new graduate enrolled nurses.

The accord also has a commitment to explore accountability mechanisms for implementing the safe staffing Care Capacity Demand Management (CCDM) tools above and beyond what has already been agreed to under the MECA.

Clendon said “absolutely” the CNO office would be closely involved in seeing safe staffing introduced. “The Government is really committed to this – incredibly committed to this.”  She said the office was in charge of putting the accord into operation and was also supporting the rollout of how the $38 million, plus $10 million funding committed for an immediate response to safe staffing, was utilised. The office was reporting regularly to the Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield, to the Minister and to the Health Sector Relationship Agreement Group.

“So we are taking this very seriously and we are very involved with it. And we are meeting weekly with all of the parties to do this work.”

Clendon said in the wake of the industrial situation this year, one of the challenges for the sector will be getting people interested in training to be nurses. “Anecdotally, we are hearing from heads of nursing schools that their enrolment numbers have been done for the mid-year intake and also expressions for interest for next year are not as enthusiastic as they are normally.

“So I think we’ve got quite a bit of work to do – to rebuild if you like – and to encourage people to look at nursing as a really good career.”

She said the accord provided opportunities to look at how the health sector addresses that. “I guess the challenge for the accord is that everybody wants things done right now.”

Clendon said work would begin as soon as it can on promoting the image of nursing to help encourage young people and second-career applicants to enter nursing.

She said it was having conversations with the directors of nursing, the nurse educators, Nursing Council and the NNO group to look at how it could reinvigorate nursing as a profession and possibly adapt some UK resources for the New Zealand context.

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