Rotorua hospital takes lead in nursing practice

Monday , 6 June 2016 by Alistair Gray

Rotorua’s Southern Cross Hospital is the first private surgical hospital in the country to have two Nurse Practitioners (NPs), and it’s locals having elective surgery who will reap the benefits.

Michael Ludbrook, General Manager of Southern Cross Hospital Rotorua, says the hospital is fortunate to be at the cutting edge of nursing practice in New Zealand.

First introduced in 2001, NPs work in a more advanced role than they do in traditional nursing, bridging the gap between nurse and doctor. They play a greater role in deciding on treatment and can order and interpret diagnostic tests and prescribe medications, just as a doctor can.

“There are only three NPs working in private surgical hospitals in New Zealand and we have two of them,” says Ludbrook. “So Rotorua has an unparalled amount of nursing expertise.”

James Fenton, an orthopaedic surgeon working out of Southern Cross Hospital Rotorua, says having two Nurse Practitioners on staff means patient care is enhanced.

“I’ve seen how much work is required to become a Nurse Practitioner – the training is extensive – and I know my patients are going to benefit from that. The collaborative nature of our relationship means patients get the very best from both the nursing and the physician point of view. That can only be of benefit to patients,” he says.

Teena Robinson has been working as a Nurse Practitioner at Southern Cross Hospital Rotorua for ten years.

“I think the reason Nurse Practitioners are so effective is that we take a holistic view of the best course of treatment. Because we blur the line between nurse and doctor, we consider the medical information, but also engage with patients and their families to take their needs into account when forming a treatment plan,” says Robinson.

Stephanie Thomson has just been accredited as a Nurse Practitioner by the Nursing Council and says the traditional caring role of a nurse has provided her with essential skills.

“Nurses are traditionally empathetic, we’re compassionate and we listen to our patients. Combine that with the Nurse Practitioners’ advanced nursing training and it’s not hard to understand why care from NPs generally results in high levels of patient compliance, shorter stays in hospital and lower readmission rates,” she says.

International studies have shown that care provided by NPs in collaboration with physicians is comparable to care provided solely by a doctor. The use of Nurse Practitioners also decreases patient complication rates, length of stay and health costs.

The process of becoming a Nurse Practitioner is extensive. Nurses must have a minimum of four years’ nursing experience in a specified area of practice and have successfully completed a clinically focused Master’s degree. They must then pass an assessment against the Nurse Practitioner competencies by a Nursing Council-approved panel. There are 164 practicing Nurse Practitioners in New Zealand out of a total nursing workforce of 50,356 (at 31 March 2015).