An afternoon tea celebration was held last week to honour the hard work of the four nurses who completed the Pinnacle graduate nurse programme in 2018 - ten years on from the pilot programme. The room was full of smiles and gratitude.
From left to right: Lindi McNeil, Fairfield Medical Centre; Petra Clements, Mahoe Med; Tarryn Dolphin-Moore, Hauraki Plains Health Centre and Sonia Lewis, Te Rūnanga o Ngāti Pikiao.
Beginning as a pilot in 2008, the programme has been through a few iterations, but Pinnacle's commitment to nursing workforce development has never wavered. Partnering with DHB nurse entry to practice (NETP) programmes across the network, Pinnacle Incorporated currently offers up to five contestable places on the programme each year.
The programme is designed to integrate and consolidate knowledge in a supportive general practice environment in the nurses' first year of practice.
Practices employ the graduate for 12 months, with a financial support package from Pinnacle that ensures the graduate nurse has a comprehensive orientation to general practice. This includes completing three core courses during the year: vaccinator, cervical smear takers level 7, and diabetes level 7.
The DHBs provide study days, funding for a postgraduate paper, and support to complete a portfolio which evidences competency at registered nurse level, while Pinnacle MHN provides comprehensive support for the new graduates and their preceptors, and is responsible for coordinating and monitoring the programme.
Pinnacle MHN nurse lead Hilde Mullins oversees the Pinnacle graduate nurse programme and has been involved in the programme since its inception. "Pinnacle's committment to nursing is evidenced through the graduate nurse programme," says Hilde. "We are very lucky to have a programme that is able to partner so well with our DHB NETP programme partners and Pinnacle member practices, to ensure the very best new graduate nurses who wish to work in general practice are able to be placed into a very supportive and vocationally fulfilling first year of practice.
"It's also great that most nurses who have come through the Pinnacle graduate nurse programme over the last 10 years have remained in general practice or primary care settings."
"I can't say enough about the practice team support, which is critical to the growth of these new nurses on the programme," Hilde adds. "We value our preceptors in particular, providing guidance, teaching, and supportive clinical case challenges promoting new learning for new grads."
The nurses were quick to acknowledge the value of the year-long support they received from each other and from Pinnacle MHN, to set them up for a successful first year.
"It meant we had so many opportunities to connect, bounce ideas off each other and check in with one another to make sure no one felt they were drowning," says Tarryn.
Between the group, graduates spent 2018 working in general practices across a variety of settings, gaining rural, urban, accident and medical, kaupapa Māori healthcare and Health Care Home environment experiences. The programme gave them the opportunity to share these experiences with each other, supporting one another to find different solutions.
The attraction to general practice was similar for each of them - particularly having the opportunity to connect with and build rapport with patients.
"The variety of work, the hours, no ward stress and the opportunity to develop relationships with patients were big ones for me," says Tarryn.
Sonia adds, "my focus was Māori general practice - too many of our people are in hospital or are unwell. I wanted to be able to be somewhere that can help prevent that."
When asked about their highlights of the programme, everyone was quick to comment.
Tarryn, who's been working in a Health Care Home environment, said "for me the support was massive. It's a full-on year and I've appreciated the resources and support to fall back on."
Tarryn noted she'd enjoyed working in the Health Care Home environment - particularly for the structure and the choice patients get, "meaning many of them take responsibility for their own health," she said. Compared with working in a non-Health Care Home practice, she noticed she worked in a much calmer environment too. "There's much less urgency. And being rural, patients don't always have to come into the practice - they have options like having a virtual consult."
One of Lindi's highlights was the programme's strong focus on primary care. "We've learnt so much and the mid-year Pinnacle MHN study days were particularly valuable with excellent speakers and a real general practice focus," she says.
The exceptional level of support graduates received was a reoccurring theme. "As a new nurse thrown into the big wide world - thanks to this programme you don't have to be alone in it. It's available so why not access it," says Sonia. "Hilde was there for us 24/7 - it was really comforting to know someone was always there as support throughout the year. She was really inspiring."
Sonia, working in a high needs kaupapa Māori healthcare environment, has had opportunities to experience virtual medicine consultations, with herself in the room supporting the patient and the GP elsewhere connecting via video. This has helped build her confidence and the feedback from the patients' experience has been very positive. She feels well equipped now, to be able to promote and work with the future technological advances health is incorporating, to give patients more choice in how they wish to interact with their healthcare team.
When asked if they had advice for the next intake, they all echoed the same thoughts to plan to take annual leave earlier.
"Don't burn out because it's easily done. Thinking it wouldn't be an issue, we brushed off the comment made early on to plan our annual leave early. But we quickly learnt it's a full on year," says Tarryn.
With plans for more postgraduate study for most of them and continuing general practice employment in both New Zealand and overseas, the groups' futures are bright. It's clear Sonia reflects the thoughts of them all when she says, "thanks to this programme I'm going into the future feeling confident!"