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Change of law sees greater autonomy for nurse practitioners

Nine nurse practitioners working in the Waikato now have the same prescribing rights as doctors thanks to legislation that took effect on 1 July this year.

The Medicines Amendment Act 2013 and Misuse of Drugs Amendment Regulations 2014 took effect on 1 July, making the highly qualified and specialised nurse practitioners authorised prescribers.

“Before these amendments, nurse practitioners had designated lists of medications they could prescribe, which over time became outdated,” said Nurse Practitioners New Zealand chair and Waikato District Health Board nurse practitioner Jane Jeffcoat. “After a long consultation process, the changes to the Act were agreed, and this will allow nurse practitioners to work to the full extent of their scope of practice.”

Nurse practitioners were introduced in New Zealand 12 years ago, as a level of nursing that requires advanced diagnostic knowledge and skills through education that was previously the domain of doctors.

Waikato DHB’s Deborah Harris was this country’s first nurse practitioner. Nurse practitioners must have a minimum of four years’ experience at an advanced level in a specific area of practice and have successfully completed a clinically focused Master’s degree programme approved by the Nursing Council.

There are currently 130 registered nurse practitioners in New Zealand and this is increasing every month. “We are registered health practitioners who assume full clinical responsibility for patients, including diagnosis, ordering and interpreting tests, administering treatments, admitting and discharging from hospital or other healthcare settings,” Mrs Jeffcoat said.

“The legislative changes mean we now also have the ability to prescribe medications with the same authority as doctors.”

For more information and profiles on some of Waikato’s nurse practitioners, go to the Waikato DHB website: www.waikatodhb.health.nz/np

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