There has been a lot of media lately about the situation new graduate nurses are finding themselves in after graduation. Many struggle to get nurse entry to practice (NETP) places, a scheme whereby newly graduated nurses are supported and mentored for their first months in the workforce, and those who are not successful in getting a place on such a programme also struggle to find a nursing role because employers want experience.
There is commentary from various quarters that we should train fewer nurses but we have a looming nursing workforce crisis as many of the current workforce move toward retirement. We need to educate and prepare the replacement workforce now, and we also need to plan for how we will employ and support them so that they are ready to replace today’s experienced and skilled workforce.
It is Health Workforce New Zealand’s (HWNZ) job to make sure supply meets demand in the health sector. So, what are they doing about preparing such a plan? Precious little to date.
The result is that newly graduated nurses are paying the price, with massive student loans and limited chances of employment. We estimate that around 500 nurses each year are not able to find NETP places. Some will find employment in various parts of the sector but many find employment outside the sector; in retail for example, just to pay the bills. A number will inevitably take their talents overseas. The numbers are terrible, and the impacts on families and communities will be felt across the country (and economy).
Students and new graduates are contacting us daily with sad stories of how their dreams of a nursing career are fading. And like Michelle Duff’s article says, these nurses should be in “hot demand”!
It’s a disaster for individuals and the health system too. We want to see some change.
NZNO wants to see 100 percent employment for every single nurse graduate who wants a position in the New Zealand health sector.
We want our new graduates to be well supported in practice and to have sound preceptorship / mentorship. New Zealand is going to be around 15 000 nurses short by 2035, so we’re going to need them.
We want them to have NETP placements that are meaningful and that provide an opportunity to grow their clinical experience and clinical practice in a supportive environment.
We want a confident, experienced, highly skilled nursing workforce. New Zealand deserves it.
Fortunately, NZNO is a large organisation; 46 000 members have a lot of clout, and we are using it to get a great result for our student members, now and in the future.
We have raised the issue along with the National Nursing Organisation group at the Health Workforce NZ meeting on November 28th last year and it was prioritised by that group as an issue for urgent attention.
We are raising the issue in the media whenever we can. Public pressure, alongside private pressure on Health Workforce NZ is surprisingly effective. The Minster of Health will not want the issue to remain unresolved during an election year.
We raised it with the Minister late last year in a meeting and agreed that a solution needed to be found.
NZNO has a clear ask of HWNZ – step up and work with the DHBs and the rest of the health sector to develop a robust and sustainable workforce plan for nursing.