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Encouraging a team approach in health care.

THE SIMPLE answer is "yes" to the question posed by your editorial in the September issue of Kai Tiaki Nursing New Zealand "Is nursing's voice heard or heeded?"

The editorial celebrates the energy and commitment of nurses, most recently demonstrated at NZNO's primary health care conference, but worries that nurses have not achieved a "real" voice in primary care organisations nor an ideal relationship with the Ministry of Health. I'd like to add my voice to those celebrating the role and enthusiasm of nurses and the opportunities that the changes in primary care offer. I see the picture less about whether one particular professional group gets an advantage over another, and more about whether we can use the opportunities offered by the changes to work better together.

The ministry consults widely with professional groups and values good relationships, only one measure of which is the 17 memoranda of understanding we have with professional groups like NZNO. Our consultation processes and relationships could always be improved, but the critical thing is having a health sector that works as well as it possibly can to give the best outcome for patients. One of our best chances at this is primary health organisations and our best chance at making them work is by encouraging a team approach by all professional groups, including nurses.

The ministry couldn't agree more with your concluding statement: "Only when the voice of nurses is consistently sought and heeded, will the very benefits nursing makes to individuals, families, communities and our nation's health, be fully realised." The challenge to all of us is to make it happen.

Unfortunately, focusing on structure misses the point. Having a nursing policy unit within the ministry is no greater guarantee of a stronger voice for nursing. Indeed, the ministry has no policy unit dedicated to any professional group. What's better is that the ministry models what it expects of the sector--a collaborative, multidisciplinary team approach. This is what you'll find in the ministry's primary care team comprised of nurses, doctors, analysts all working together and managed by the ministry's former chief nursing advisor Gillian Drew. We have a significant number of nursing initiatives, which, in the primary care area, include scholarships and funding for innovative ideas. This year, the Government announced how its $7 million funding for innovative primary care initiatives would be spent and 183 primary health care nurses were assisted with a new $850,000 postgraduate scholarship fund.

We've learned from focusing on quality improvement that it's important to set improvement goals, study the work process, design and test promising changes, measure progress, involve everyone, and continuously build skills in system mindedness, teamwork and measurement. Nurses are key to helping us do this and are found in key roles right throughout the ministry.

Karen Poutasi

Director-General of Health

Ministry of Health

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Title Annotation:letters
Author:Poutasi, Karen
Publication:Kai Tiaki: Nursing New Zealand
Article Type:Letter to the Editor
Date:Oct 1, 2003
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