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Under the new South Island registered nurse prescribing in community health (RNPCH) programme supported by WellSouth, South Island primary care nurses will be trained to prescribe routine medications.
WellSouth Primary Health Network nurse educator and programme co-ordinator Ellen Clearwater said as well as offering patients more timely, convenient and affordable access to healthcare, the programme increased the scope of practice registered nurses (RNs) working in general practices and other primary care providers.
It would help make the best use of the primary care workforce, she said.
"Prescribing nurses are able to manage common but very real health problems without the need for direct GP input.
"Nurses having more autonomy means patients get the care they need more quickly and it frees up GP time for more complex cases."
She said easier access to care for routine health concerns might also mean minor ailments were addressed before they became more serious medical issues.
An initial cohort of 13 registered nurses began the six-month programme in February, with a new group starting this month.
Training is online with virtual modules and support from a nurse practitioner, nurse educator alongside clinical supervision by a nominated authorised prescriber.
WellSouth Clinical Service manager Sharron Feist said it had been "very positively received" by the registered nursing community here, who valued the opportunity to increase their skills and scope of practice while continuing to do their day jobs caring for patients and whanau.
"The nurse prescribing programme enhances capacity and capability in general practice and other community-based services and helps to ensure the sustainability of the healthcare workforce.
"As the number of nurses completing the programme increases, it will mean a larger workforce that is able to support better access to primary care for our communities, and help general practices and other community based health providers to deliver care effectively and efficiently."