Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2006 Week 10 Hansard (18 October) . . Page.. 3209..
MS MacDONALD (continuing):
To address shortages in the mental health sector, collaborative programs between Mental Heath ACT and La Trobe University have been established. These programs include postgraduate educational courses for both registered and enrolled nurses. Registered nurses undertake the postgraduate diploma in nursing science in mental health. As part of their program, enrolled nurses complete a single unit subject: introduction to mental health nursing. Students in the programs are paid through their employment and have course fees paid by Mental Health ACT. Seven registered nurses completed the program in 2004, five of whom are still employed by Mental Health ACT. Another three nurses completed the program and graduated in August 2006, and two will graduate in February 2007 and two in August 2007. Five enrolled nurses also commenced the program in 2005, with four having completed it and remaining as employees of Mental Health ACT.
ACT government agencies have also provided clinical placements for students enrolled in allied health, medical and nursing and midwifery courses. Further, $500,000 was allocated across four years to provide a refresher or re-entry program for nurses and midwives who wish to return to work after a period of absence. The refresher nurse program was accredited in September 2005 and five registered nurses have completed the course, another four are progressing and a further 10 are new starters. The refresher midwife program was accredited in April of this year and the first midwife refresher started at that time. Two more midwives are currently undertaking the theoretical component of the program and are about to begin their clinical placement. Three nurses are also currently undertaking the re-entry program at the University of Canberra.
The overseas qualified nurse program targets nurses who have experience and knowledge from their countries of origin that can be developed for safe and competent practice in Australia. This program was accredited in September 2005. Four participants have successfully completed the program and are now employed by ACT Health. Three participants began in March, two in April and six in June. The establishment of 21 full-time equivalent new clinical development nurse positions across the ACT has also provided much needed clinical support for ongoing learning and skill development.
The postgraduate nursing and midwifery scholarship scheme has been offered since November 2000. ACT Health provides $500,000 per annum to assist nurses and midwives to undertake postgraduate studies-$300,000 of this is provided for mental health and $200,000 for all other nurses and midwives. Seventy-eight applications were received for the 2006 scholarship funding compared to 50 in 2004, equating to a 56 per cent increase.
In recognition of the increased demand in the general scholarship scheme, the Positive Professional Development Pathway scheme, or the PPDP scheme, was introduced in October 2005. The scheme provides advanced payment of course tuition fees which are then reimbursed through regular fortnightly payroll deductions during the course of study. To date, four staff have accessed the scheme-two enrolled nurses, one health professional and one administrative officer. It is expected that uptake will increase as the scheme becomes better known.
ACT Health also provided scholarships for enrolled nurses to undertake the new enrolled nurse medication administration course at the Canberra Institute of Technology. Successful completion of this course enables enrolled nurses to increase the scope of