Nurse practitioner begins role at ED

New Dunedin Hospital emergency department nurse practitioner Signe Standbridge. PHOTO: GREGOR...
New Dunedin Hospital emergency department nurse practitioner Signe Standbridge. PHOTO: GREGOR RICHARDSON
Dunedin Hospital has appointed its first nurse practitioner in its emergency department - a new role it is hoped will assist the busy department.

Signe Standbridge was pitched in at the deep end, beginning on New Year's Eve.

However, she was in familiar territory.

Ms Standbridge joined the hospital as a graduate 16 years ago, and has spent the bulk of her nursing career in emergency departments.

"It's a dynamic area to work in," she said.

"It has its moments, and it can be very busy and very challenging and the range of patients we get is vast.

"The day can be very varied, which makes it interesting."

While the nurse practitioner role is common overseas and was established in New Zealand some years ago, there are just 350 nationwide, compared with more than 55,000 registered nurses.

The Southern District Health Board employs 31, the third-highest rate among the 20 DHBs.

Nurse practitioners have a wider range of tasks than regular nurses, which include assessing and diagnosing patients and prescribing medication.

Ms Standbridge will deal with patients with minor ailments to free doctors up for patients with more serious problems.

"I will be dealing with a whole range of patients - it's another avenue for patients to be seen, assessed and treated," she said.

"The hugely complex patients will be what the medical team is dealing with, and the minor through to moderately serious will be the patients I will be generally treating."

The step to becoming a nurse practitioner involved completing a masters degree in nursing and a minimum of 300 hours clinical supervision, which Ms Standbridge did in Dunedin last year.

"The Nursing Council and some of the funding providers have teamed up recently to create clearer pathways, which involves the employer getting on board as well, so there is a job at the end of your training.

"That removes a lot of barriers to becoming a nurse practitioner.

"We have another nurse taking the same training pathway this year, so all going well, there will be two nursing practitioners in ED in a year's time."

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