Victoria University’s nursing staff escape cuts but midwifery remains in sights

August 3, 2023

Nursing staff at Te Herenga Waka Victoria University of Wellington (VUW)’s school of nursing and midwifery are breathing a sigh of relief today after finding out there would be no cuts to its nursing programme staff.

However, its midwifery school remains under review, although it’s been given a year’s grace to boost enrolments and meet the university’s financial targets.

‘We’re all one school — we all work together to support each other. It’s not nursing versus midwifery.’

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Director of VUW’s school of nursing, midwifery and health practice Kathy Holloway said her feelings were “mixed” at the news. It was great no nursing staff would be cut, but “a real concern” the midwifery programme remained under review.

“So it’s ironically good news for one part of the school . . . But the real pressure is on the midwifery programme to enrol students over the next year, to protect its viability within the university — so that’s a real concern,” Holloway told Kaitiaki Nursing New Zealand.

Kathy Holloway

“We’re all one school — we all work together to support each other. It’s not nursing versus midwifery.”

Up to a quarter of the nursing and midwifery school’s 20 staff were under threat, as part of a wider VUW review in the face of a $33 million-plus deficit. However, the review was paused last week after VUW received $12 million from a $128 million Government tertiary rescue package for degree programmes nationally.

‘We were able to find some more information that . . . demonstrated that the qualifications that sat in our [nursing] programme were financially viable.’

VUW instead invited voluntary redundancies — this week revealing 74 people had taken up the offer, about a third of those the university said it needed before the cash boost. A final decision will be made by September 21.

Holloway said nobody at the nursing and midwifery school took voluntary redundancy. However, with the extra time, they were able to make “a more detailed analysis” of its finances, which showed the nursing programmes would be able to meet the university’s financial targets after all. That followed the university’s initial “very high level” budget analysis across 59 programmes, she said.

‘We need to make sure we get as many midwifery students as we can.’

“We were able to find some more information that we were able to feed up to the university that demonstrated that the qualifications that sat in our [nursing] programme were financially viable,” Holloway said.

“We were [also] able to make a case for midwifery . . . that we should give it more time.”

The nursing school had about 600 students enrolled across a range of post-graduate nursing qualifications from a diploma to masters and doctoral programmes.

The bachelor of midwifery — which only began at VUW four years ago — had about 20 students poised to graduate shortly, Holloway said. It also offers post-graduate midwifery options. “They wouldn’t be there if we didn’t have that programme.”

VUW’s school of nursing and midwifery is based at Wellington Hospital.

“The midwifery programme is one of good standing — it just needs enrolments . . . We need to make sure we get as many midwifery students as we can.”

COVID and high vacancies had heightened pressure on the midwifery workforce. “We definitely need more midwives to be graduating — the health workforce plan is really clear about the gap that there is in the midwifery service across New Zealand”.

Nurses, midwives ‘strategically important’ to NZ

Recognition, in the Government’s health workforce plan, of the “strategic importance to New Zealand” of highly qualified nurses such as nurse practitioners (NPs) and nurse prescribers had also helped the school make its case, she said.

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The plan called for more nursing graduates, NPs and prescribers within two years. Holloway said the school would certainly be able to now contribute to those aims — and was keen to get more details on how Te Whatu Ora would be supporting the plan with funding and expanded clinical placements

“There’s a package of stuff we are really poised to do”.