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Nurse prescribing programme helping primary care nurses do more for their patients

Monday 27 June 2022

More South Island-based primary care nurses will be able to prescribe routine medications to patients thanks to a new training initiative supported by WellSouth.

The South Island Registered Nurse Prescribing in Community Health (RNPCH) programme trains nurses to prescribe medications for a number of common health conditions, including ear infections, sore throats, routine aches and pains and common skin conditions.

In addition to helping patients have more timely, convenient and affordable access to healthcare, the programme increases the scope of practice registered nurses (RNs) working in general practice and other primary care providers. This helps support making best use of the primary care workforce.

“Prescribing nurses are able to manage common but very real health problems without the need for direct GP input. Nurses having more autonomy means patients get the care they need more quickly and it frees up GP time for more complex cases,” says Ellen Clearwater, Nurse Educator and Programme Coordinator, WellSouth Primary Health Network.

Easier access to care for routine health concerns may also mean minor ailments are addressed before they become more serious medical issues, Ellen adds.

Collaborative Programme

An initial cohort of 13 RNs began the six-month programme in February, with a new group starting this month. Training is online with virtual modules and support from a nurse practitioner, nurse educator alongside clinical supervision by a nominated authorised prescriber.

The South Island Registered Nurse Prescribing in Community Health (RNPCH) programme is partnership of the South Island Alliance, Nelson Marlborough Health and WellSouth Primary Health Network. It is the first training programme of its kind in the South Island and one of six nurse prescribing training programmes in New Zealand, authorised by the Nursing Council of New Zealand.

Along with Ellen, WellSouth Nurse Practitioner Nicky Burwood, and Dr Jill Clendon, Associate Director of Nursing and Operations Manager Ambulatory Care with Nelson Marlborough DHB, helped to adapt the programme and are supporting its delivery within the South Island.

“It’s been very positively received by the registered nursing community here, who value the opportunity to increase their skills and scope of practice while continuing to do their day jobs caring for patients and whānau,” Sharron Feist, WellSouth Clinical Service Manager.

“The nurse prescribing programme enhances capacity and capability in general practice and other community-based services and helps to ensure the sustainability of the healthcare workforce.

“As the number of nurses completing the programme increases, it will mean a larger workforce that is able to support better access to primary care for our communities, and help general practices and other community based health providers to deliver care effectively and efficiently.”

Andrew Swanson-Dobbs, WellSouth CEO, says the collaborative approach to developing and delivering the programme and helping to increase capacity and capability in primary and community care the locality approach to health care services.   

“With health reforms on the horizon, this is really important work to be undertaking, helping primary care nurses to access training and work at the top of their scope and make more health care more available in the community.


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