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What is a Nurse Practitioner?

Nurse Practitioners combine their advanced nursing knowledge and skills with diagnostic reasoning and therapeutic knowledge to provide patient-centered healthcare. They provide care for people with both common and complex conditions. Nurse Practitioners diagnose, order and interpret diagnostic and laboratory tests, they can admit,  discharge and refer to hospital and specialist care. Nurse Practitioners have a broad scope of practice and have the same prescribing authority as General Practitioners. 


​Many Nurse practitioners work in primary care where, like general practitioners, they may be the lead healthcare provider for individuals and or their families. Some Nurse practitioners own their own practice. As clinical leaders they work across healthcare settings and influence health service delivery and the wider profession. ​

Nurse Practitioners (NP') are part of a global workforce and are registered in Canada, United States of America,  United Kingdom and Australia.  The Nursing Council of New Zealand established  the Nurse Practitioner scope in 2001 to meet the changing health needs of New Zealanders. In June 2023 there were 701 registered NP's in NZ, one percent of the nursing workforce.  An omnibus of changes to health legislation in 2017 removed many barriers to Nurse Practitioners, and the legislation now refers to Health Practitioner to be inclusive of Nursing and Medical Practitioners and their professional scope of practice. ​

Many Nurse Practitioners work in medically underserved areas and therefore work in primary care as there is a significant shortage of General Practitioners (GP) and GP trainees. Health workforce shortages is a global trend impacting medicine, nursing and many allied health professions. In New Zealand in 2022 there were  5,728 GP's registered  in New Zealand. Forty percent of our medical workforce is internationally trained, the highest in the OECD. Many GP's work part time and forty four percent of the workforce intend on retiring in the next ten years. In contrast the average age of  NP's is younger than the GP workforce however they are also experienced as on average NP's have fifteen  years of clinical experience prior to registering as a NP. 

Nurse Practitioner Education and Certification

NP's  have advanced clinical training and vocational experience (minimum of five years of clinical practice in a specialty area). They have advanced postgraduate university education having completed a master's degree which includes the demonstration of competencies for advanced practice and prescribing applied within their area of practice.  As they are able to prescribe medicines within their scope with the same authority as medical practitioners. Nurse practitioners during their professional internship undergo a minimum of three hundred hours of clinical supervision of practice by a qualified medical and/or nurse practitioner.  To become qualified they submit an extensive portfolio of evidence demonstrating competency and then sit an oral panel assessment against the nurse practitioner competencies,. Similar to medicine and nursing,  evidence of ongoing competency is required  and submitted to Nursing Council of New Zealand every three years for ongoing certification.

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