January 25, 2021

Mental Health Nursing in New Zealand

New Zealand: Nurses Needed!

A call for New Zealand to recruit nurses from abroad is being supported by a chronically understaffed industry that is putting patients and nurses at risk.

District Health Boards and hospitals are looking to employ mental health nurses from abroad to help with the shortage around the country.

Nurses are stressed by working double shifts, which could raise concerns about whether they are putting their patients’ safety at risk. Using nurses from the UK and US is a good solution to finding highly experienced and skilled nurses not always available in-country. Mental health professionals from the US and UK make a great fit for New Zealand due to a similar health system, ease of registration between the two countries, and no language barriers. Benefits of hiring more US and UK mental health nurses specifically would be their excellent training, similar culture to the majority of our patients, good communication skills, they’re used to high patient loads, they’re generally highly skilled, and possess a similar sense of humor (essential for nursing).New Zealand Nurses Association associate professional services manager Hilary Graham-Smith said while there is a preference for a home-grown workforce this is not realistic as employers, especially DHBs, are struggling to recruit New Zealand-educated mental health nurses. “We have just recently managed to get the government to agree to 100 percent employment of all new graduate nurses in the nurse entry to practice programs and a supported into practice program for enrolled nurses. That said we do need senior experienced nurses and sometimes some of those recruited have particular clinical specialty skills that an employer might be looking for. Without senior experienced nurses, we get a skill mix imbalance which isn’t ideal."

New Zealand’s nursing workforce already comprises 27 percent internationally qualified nurses (the highest in the OECD) with most coming from India or the Philippines, but many are also from the UK, she said.

The US is a rapidly growing source country as well.

“Nurses from the US are educated in a system similar to our own so they tend to fit in quite well.” “Nurses like lots of other people like to travel and nursing registration is very useful in terms of being able to have an income while seeing the world,” she said. International nurses must apply to the Nursing Council to practice in New Zealand. It has a number of requirements to ensure nurses seeking registration in New Zealand have educational equivalency. The requirements include proof of identity, passing an English language test, a relevant qualification, current overseas registration, at least two years’ post-registration experience, two years’ nursing practice in the last five, demonstration of fitness for registration as a nurse and many nurses will need to successfully complete a Competency Assessment Programme. Overseas mental health nurses wishing to work in New Zealand also usually need to apply for a work visa through Immigration New Zealand. In May, aged care nurses were added to the long-term skills shortage list (LTSSL) which identifies skilled occupations where there is a sustained and ongoing shortage of works in New Zealand and globally. However, other registered and enrolled nurses such as mental health nurses are not on this list but are classified under the skilled migrant category dependent on criteria such as remuneration thresholds.

The Immigration New Zealand website states that 25,000 more nurses will be needed by 2030.

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