A new graduates plea.
Article Type: Letter to the editor
Author: Kitchin, Emilie
Pub Date: 02/01/2012
Publication: Name: Kai Tiaki: Nursing New Zealand Publisher: New Zealand Nurses' Organisation Audience: Trade Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: Health; Health care industry Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2012 New Zealand Nurses' Organisation ISSN: 1173-2032
Issue: Date: Feb, 2012 Source Volume: 18 Source Issue: 1
Accession Number: 282425914
Full Text: I am a newly graduated registered nurse. I studied at Palmerston North's Universal College of Learning (UCOL) and passed my state finals in November last year. My experience of being a new graduate in New Zealand, which I so looked forward to over the past three years, has left me bitterly disappointed.

The application process for nurse-entry-to-practice (NETP) programmes at Palmerston North Hospital was dismal We were given the application pack with a "preference" sheet, where we were able to list which wards/areas we were interested in. So, excitedly I discussed and carefully thought about areas in which I would like to gain employment, which areas would best suit my interests and where I know I could do we and where I could offer my talents. Sadly, we were then granted one interview only, and were disappointingly advised that we were only getting interviews in areas that were our first choices. This was extremely unfair. I had my interview in an area which, after the interview process, decided it no longer had enough funding for a new graduate programme. That was my only chance. It hasn't just happened to me--there are loads of us out there, keen, eager, talented, with up-to-date knowledge, without jobs.

Luckily I have found employment but not in nursing. It is a job I'm very excited about, still working in health, but unfortunately not recognised by Nursing Council as a role which will enable me to retain my registration. The solution would be easy (or so I thought)--I could get work at the casual pool in the hospital or through an agency. But the harsh reality is that MidCentral Distirct Health Board (DHB) (and other agencies) are not prepared to offer casual employment to a new graduate; they want a minimum of two years' experience. Even after offering to put myself through the appropriate training (eg intravenous certification etc), I was told no. So what happens now? Well, this is the dilemma. If we can't keep up our clinical hours, we can't maintain our registration. If we don't get a NetP programme in the next six months, we won't ever get one. If we don't maintain our registration, we lose our registration. In a country supposedly "crying out" for nurses, we are not doing a very good job at supporting the new nurses we have. We have been left up the creek without a paddle, and deeply disappointed by a profession that promised so much throughout our training.

I was a top student. I received a scholarship. I did very well on all my clinical placements. My lecturers and I expected good things for me. Yet I feel so let down and disappointed by the lack of support for those of us affected by our country's current economic situation. Solutions? I have a few: extend the time frame for NETP programmes so we are able to reapply in the 18 months after finishing our degree; allow new graduates to be casual pool nurses, enabling them to get enough work to maintain their registration.

I started my degree with such hope and such a desire to do good. I had a ten-year goal, wanting to specialise in oncology nursing, and carry on my education to get my Masters and a PhD. I will still achieve those goals, but not in nursing. I don't want to seem arrogant, but I know my withdrawal from nursing will be a great loss for the profession. What is going to happen when the baby boomers retire? We are the new generation of nurses, yet only half of us are actually gaining employment. Students from India and other countries are gaining employment before us. How is this supporting the new generation of nurses? It's no wonder so many talented people go overseas. I would if I could, but I have children and my family here.

If I could advise nursing students today on anything, it would be to be prepared for the disappointment that could follow at the end of your hard work. I might even go so far as to ay I wouldn't bother training in our region.

If things don't change, it will continue. It seems everyone is blaming the recession and stating that we just have to grin and bear it. But I think changes have to be made to suit the times because this country is losing a lot of really talented, well educated nurses. Maybe it's just my city, but it's really unfair.

Emilie Kitchin, RN, Palmerston North

MidCentral DHB's director of nursing, Sue Wood, replies: Thank you for the opportunity to comment. I have huge sympathy for Emilie's situation. The mismatch in supply end demand between the education sector end the employer is really visible in the current environment.

For MidCentral DHB there were 101 applicants (50 more then usual) for 16 protected general and four mental health jobs. We were able to take on an additional five graduates into emerging vacancies suitable for NETP. In addition, the 20 nurses completing lest year's NETP programme secured permanent jobs.

While the DHB runs three NETP programmes, they ore from two graduating classes. We only hove the opportunity to recruit for NETP programmes at two points: mid year (just one to eight places), end at the end of the academic year.

We would love to be able to employ New Zealand nurses throughout the year. We do take graduates at any time, hook them into a programme end catch them up. But in reality, new graduates are not able to wait for vacancies, as they come up in late summer/autumn/winter.

To enhance patient safety end retain our nurses we have been innovating, embedding the Magnet principles and working on safe staffing. Turnover has decreased from 23 per cent (2000) to eight per cent (2010). Our first graduate programme began in 2001. In 2002, with NZNO support, we invented the "nursing intern" so new graduates could start employment in November while waiting for state final results. We also started a primary health NETP programme in 2003 and led the national expansion programme development work. With a strong clinical nursing team, the pay jolt and the recession, our end-of-year vacancy gap has reduced from 45 full-time equivalents (FTE) to 25 FTEs.

We struggle to recruit during the year; we experience an ongoing shortage of New Zealand registered nurses. In the winter, between vacancies and sick leave, our nurses continually ration education, struggle to get annual leave approved, are requested to work extra shifts; their lives are constantly interrupted and they get tired.

For me, the answer to this NETP programme mismatch is for the education providers to design a more even spread of graduating nurses through the year. This would meet both new graduate and employer need. For my colleagues it would contribute to safe staffing, a healthy environment and better winters.
Gale Copyright: Copyright 2012 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.