Ministry of Health launches fund to bring nurses back –

The Ministry of Health has announced a $1 million support package to help bring nurses back to the healthcare sector.
The Return to Nursing Workforce Support Fund will assist nurses’ return by paying up to $5000 for each applicant’s costs to achieve up-to-date New Zealand registration.
Ministry chief nursing officer Lorraine Hetaraka said she was delighted that the ministry was able to create the fund.
“We know there are more than 20,000 New Zealand-trained registered nurses who are not currently practising, and more than 1000 Internationally Qualified Nurses who are working in Aged Residential Care as Health Care Assistants who may be eligible for this support.”
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Nurses who qualified overseas or who had not worked in New Zealand for some time would need to pay for an annual practising certificate and registration with the Nursing Council of New Zealand, which the ministry would assist with, Hetaraka said.
The Ministry of Health was particularly keen to support nurses working in aged residential care and the fund had been designed so that nurses would need support from their employer, to aid in retention, she said.
It had also been designed to be flexible, which was why the fund was covering things like childcare, transport and uniforms, along with training courses, English language proficiency tests, and administration fees for those who had trained abroad, Hetaraka said.
“Each case may be different in terms of individual circumstances.”
More than 100 application had already been received on Monday morning.
Hetaraka said other ministry initiatives to boost the nurse workforce included domestic recruitment campaigns, and a campaign led by district health boards to attract New Zealand-trained nurses working abroad.
“We’ve got a large workforce in Australia, as well as the United Kingdom and Saudi Arabia,” she said.
Southern District Health Board chief nursing and midwifery officer Jane Wilson welcomed the fund announcement, saying it was something nursing leaders from across our Southern Health System – including the DHB and aged care – had strongly advocated for.
“Many nurses have told us that one of the biggest challenges returning to practice relates to cost,” she said.
The DHB was already working with an identified group of nurses whom she expected to submit applications, Wilson said.
Details about the number of southern nurses to benefit from the fund would become clear when the first round of applications closed in mid-March, she said.
Applications opened on Monday and 200 nurses will be supported in the first round.
Presbyterian Support Southland chief executive Michael Parker said the fund was, unfortunately, only for nurses already in New Zealand, but he said it was a good start.
Presbyterian Support Southland is among the Southern aged-care providers who have been working together to try and solve the aged care nursing shortage in the district, which had deepened since New Zealand closed its borders.
The fund would incentivise trained nurses to rejoin the workforce, Parker said, adding that it would pay for costs that providers would otherwise have to pay themselves.
Parker was pleased that the Ministry had acknowledged the importance of nurses.
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