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Rural nurses get another chance for full-time study.

SIX MORE rural health nurses (RHN) will be able to study full-time next year, thanks to an extension of the primary health care nurse practitioner (rural) scholarship scheme.

In September last year, Health Minister Annette King announced the scholarship scheme, valued at $240,000, to enable six RHNs to study full-time for a masters degree to enable them to apply for nurse practitioner (NP) status with prescribing rights. It was announced as a one-off package but last month Associate Health Minister Damien O'Connor said the scheme would be extended and funding boosted to $280,000. The money pays the nurses' salaries and a contribution towards accommodation and travel expenses.

The Ministry's chief nursing adviser Frances Hughes, said access to continuing education had always been difficult for nurses from isolated rural areas because of the distances involved and because it was often difficult for them to get release from their employers.

The scholarships were a way of supporting nurses who wouldn't normally have the opportunity to undertake such studies; were addressing the growing shortage of highly-skilled nurses; and were assisting with on-going efforts to recruit and retain nurses. "We want to keep our experienced, expert nurses in rural areas," Hughes said.

Otago Polytechnic nursing lecturer and long time campaigner for RHNs, Jean Ross, said the extension of the scholarships was opportune for nurses and rural communities. "The Government has acknowledged that RHNs have specific needs and barriers to continuing study, and have identified the contribution they can make to rural health in the future."

Karamea-based RHN Heather Maw, one of the first-round scholarship winners, is delighted the scheme has been extended. 'It has been a wonderful opportunity for me. I have found studying without the distraction of clinical practice a huge bonus."

She has found studying easier than she had initially imagined, and has found having a break from practice therapeutic. "I know I will return to practice in 2005 refreshed and ready to face the challenges of rual practice."

Maw, who has been a RHN in Karamea for 12 years, encouraged all those eligible to apply.

Gore-based RHN Judi Dennis said the scholarship had meant time for more extensive reading and research than ever before. "It has meant having time to lift my head and gain a vision of primary and rural nursing development in New Zealand. It has brought about reflective changes that I'd never imagined and that I have welcomed for professional and personal growth."

She said she had been humbled to receive the scholarship "and have never lost the sense of privilege to have time to study, reflect and grow".

Rural health nurses can apply for the scholarships by downloading the application form and information sheet on the ministry's website: www.moh.govt.nz/nursing or by contacting Stephanie Calder at 04 496 2556; email stephanie_calder@moh.govt.nz Applications close on July 9.

Merger considered

* The Rural Nurses' National Network and the Rural GP Network are considering merging and forming a new organisation. Senior nursing lecturer at Otago Polytechnic and rural nurse campaigner Jean Ross said the network was at present sending information to rural nurses about what the merger would mean.

Rural nurses wanting further information should contact lean Ross at jeanr@tekotago.ac.nz or the facilitator of the national RHNs' network Linda Brown at engserv@xtra.co.nz.
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Title Annotation:news & events
Publication:Kai Tiaki: Nursing New Zealand
Geographic Code:8NEWZ
Date:Jun 1, 2004
Words:556
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