18 Jul 2014

Rural nurses needed, as well as doctors

8:39 pm on 18 July 2014

The Rural General Practice Network wants the effort being made to encourage young doctors to work in rural areas, extended to nurses as well.

The Government is allowing an intake of 34 more students at Otago and Auckland Medical Schools next year.

Half of those places have been earmarked for students coming from rural areas.

That's on the basis of research that shows that students who grew up in rural areas are more likely to go back and work there.

A student nurse training at New Plymouth Base Hospital.

A student nurse training at New Plymouth Base Hospital. Photo: PHOTO NZ

The Rural General Practice Network's deputy chair, Sharon Hansen, says having more places for rural medical students is a great step, but there are other staffing shortages that need attention as well.

"It's wonderful that the Government has taken this initiative and it's going to make a difference in the long run, we believe".

But the network also wanted to see the same energy being put into the nursing workforce.

"We know we have an aging nursing workforce," she said. "We also know that we may lose a significant number of our nurses to Australia, and this is particularly dificult in rural areas where the same recruitment problems occur for nurses.

"We need experienced nurses and it's difficult for them to develop the skills," she said.

In terms of trainee doctors, Auckland University will increase student numbers through its Regional and Rural Admissions Scheme from 40 to 52, while Otago University will increase the number enrolling through its rural sub-category from 50 to 55.

But deputy chair Sharon Hansen says those students will also need follow through support.

"What we want to see is the training to be supported for those doctors as they go into their postgraduate years, and as they train them to become a general practitioner.

"We want that rural focus to be maintained."