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THE NURSING Council's idea of introducing competencies at the end of the first year of practice is a major concern. Currently nurses are prepared for practice through a three-year degree programme. Theoretical and practical milestones mark the journey through their nursing education, with completion symbolised in the awarding of a bachelor's degree and registration as a comprehensive nurse through processes set down by the Council. At this point the new graduate is registered to practise as a nurse in any area of health in New Zealand. The rationale for the Council's new stance is unclear but would seem to indicate it believes new graduate nurses are not safe to practise (the safety of the public, in relation to the registration of nurses, is the mandate of the Council). From this, one could conclude that there is either something wrong with the educational preparation of nurses, or with the credentiallng process that accepts them as safe to practise. There are other possible reasons why new graduate, as well as many other more experienced nurses, are finding it difficult to provide safe care, so before we launch into another complicated system, increasing an already burgeoning regulatory and educational industry, let's consider other possibilities.

I was educated in the first course at Christchurch Polytechnic from 1973-1975. The context within which I entered nursing is a far cry from the contemporary context. I was assisted into practice with the support of an appropriately resourced in-service education department, clinical supervision from experienced registered nurses and appropriate staffing and skill mix. A director of nursing held the budget and decision-making power for nursing. The Southland enquiry (1) is testimony to the impact that contemporary contexts have on safety and Southland is not an exception. When will nurse leaders admit that the apparent inability of new graduates to foot it in our overburdened workplaces is not necessarily a problem of competency or preparation? Adding more regulation will further hamstring an already over-regulated and under-resourced system. A more appropriate focus would be to address poorly-staffed and inadequately-supported workplaces, so new graduates, who are well prepared theoretically, can continue their practice development and build on their knowledge and skills. And to do so without fear they will work in the first year for reduced wages or they will be found incompetent and therefore unable to practise--both are the logical end points of the Council's poorly thought through ideas.

It's really quite simple--let's not allow our regulatory body to further complicate what is happening to our profession.


(1) Health and Disability Commissioner (2002) Southland-Distrlct Health Board Mental Health Services February-March 2001. A Report by the Health and Disability Commissioner. Auckland: Health and Disability Commissioner.
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Title Annotation:letters
Author:O'Malley, Jane
Publication:Kai Tiaki: Nursing New Zealand
Article Type:Letter to the Editor
Date:Nov 1, 2003
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