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Primary Care Nurses Advance their Skills

Wednesday 21 September 2022

The South Island are set to have twelve new community nurse prescribers by the end of October, just after the third cohort begin the six-month long programme.

The South Island Registered Nurse Prescribing in Community Health (RNPCH) programme trains nurses to treat minor ailments in usually well patients.

The nurses can prescribe authorised medicines once they have completed the training programme, allowing them to have a more active role in patient care.  

The programme is a partnership of the South Island Alliance, Nelson Marlborough Health, and WellSouth Primary Health Network. It is authorised by the Nursing Council of New Zealand and the first programme of its kind in the South Island.

The programme runs over six months, with 30 hours of self-directed online learning, as well as a further 16.5 hours of instruction from WellSouth and Queenstown Medical Centre Nurse Practitioner Nicky Burwood. WellSouth Nurse Educator Ellen Clearwater facilitates the programme alongside Nicky.

The virtual sessions Nicky delivers encompass the specific nursing competencies the nurses must meet to complete the programme.


Aspiring Medical Centre Nurse and RNCPH programme student Jackie Davidson (left) with WellSouth and Queenstown Medical Centre Nurse Practitioner Nicky Burwood (right).

The programme aims to improve patient outcomes, patients access to health care, and promote team collaboration in practices.

“We encourage collaborative working within the practice using these advanced nursing skills to better healthcare for the community, especially the rural communities of the South Island,” says Nicky.

The nurses spend time working with their prescribing clinical supervisor to enhance their skills around prescribing in practice before producing a portfolio and case studies to exhibit their advanced nursing skills. On completion of the programme, they are endorsed through the Nursing Council of New Zealand.

“The programme is empowering the nurses to be able to provide a higher level of health care for their communities.

“It is a real privilege to be able to be involved in teaching and supporting nurses in their onward education, our nursing workforce is the future of the New Zealand health system.” Nicky adds.

The first cohort has completed their final webinar and will submit their portfolio at the end of September, and by the end of October there will be 12 new community nurse prescribers in the South Island – three of whom are based in Wanaka.

The feedback from the programme has been positive, with the current cohort showing increased motivation and confidence in their work.

“I think the nurses are really excited about their futures in nursing in these more advanced, independent roles,” says Nicky.

The second cohort are currently undertaking the programme, with the third cohort set to start in October. The start date for the next cohort is October 13, and enrolments close on October 3.

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