Fri 17 Apr 2015

Everyone wants a WITT nursing student

WITT’s School of Nursing can justifiably claim to be the best in the country.

Most people in the community would judge the success of any degree programme by two criteria; a) the pass rate and b) the graduates’ success in getting jobs.

Judged on either score, WITT’s School of Nursing continues to be top. In its latest achievements all 34 third-year students passed the course and then went on to pass their state exams to become registered nurses, which means they can be employed as such.

Secondly, despite an economic downturn in the region due to falling oil prices and dairy payouts, 32 of the 34 nursing graduates have found jobs.

That’s a 94% rate, which is almost unheard of, especially in these circumstances, but Associate head of Nursing, Jessica Knight points out that the two nurses without jobs aren’t seeking employment just yet.

As with every success story, it didn’t happen by accident. Jessica was quick to point out that the 34 graduates who completed their studies at the end of last year were the first to graduate since the course content was redesigned.

Head of Nursing Diana Fergusson was the mastermind behind the redesign and she admits she’s delighted with the way things have gone.

These were the first graduates who’d studied from the new curriculum which has reinvigorated the course.

“The redesign was a totally collaborative approach, involving the School and all of the nursing leaders from around the region.  As a result, we’ve been able to increase their work readiness.

“We all know that healthcare is becoming increasingly complex and changing rapidly, so nurses need to be able to work in that environment. Clinical practice is at the centre of the curriculum. These graduates need to be flexible, resilient and expert learners with great team skills and caring skills.’’

Jessica says it’s a unique approach. The Nursing council of New Zealand regulate the building blocks and standards, so we can redevelop the package however we want within those guidelines.

“The curriculum meets Taranaki’s needs, for our iwi, community and acute, but our graduates are nationally and internationally recognised as being ready to work. They meet all the standards required to work anywhere.

“I think the new curriculum and the apprentice-style model have enhanced our graduates’ employability.  Taranaki’s always been very good to our graduates, but this year’s been the best.

“In previous years around five to eight would have gone to Australia for jobs, this year, none have.’’

Diana says it’s not coincidental.  “The graduates are competing against every other registered nurse, and they’re getting the jobs, the age-care sector, the occupational healthcare sector, and the hospitals are employing them.’’

Jessica uses the example of Chalmers Rest Home, a long-established care facility in New Plymouth.

“They kept two jobs for WITT graduates. They didn’t advertise the positions publicly; they wanted to employ our nurses, which is unheard of. That was phenomenal.

“It’s not an isolated incident, which is the ultimate proof the changes were beneficial.’’

Changes to the curriculum also acknowledged that Maori and Pasifika students like to learn in  different way s. “And ‘we’ve infused that into the classrooms,’’ says Jessica. “WITT’s leadership has been very good in growing that with us.’’

Around 15% of WITT’s nursing students are Maori or Pasifika, which is growing every year.

“That’s our job,’’ says Diana. “Our job was to ensure our graduates met the needs of industry. ‘’

With 44 nursing students due to graduate at the end of this year, there’s no doubt they’ll have a great chance of repeating the successes of the class of 2014.