The Ministerial Taskforce on Nursing: A struggle for control
Jill Wilkinson, RN, PhD, MCNA(NZ), Senior Lecturer, School of Health & Social Services, Massey University, Wellington
Reference: Wilkinson, J. (2008). The Ministerial Taskforce on Nursing: A struggle for control. Nursing Praxis in New Zealand, 24(3), 5-16.
It is now ten years since the Ministerial Taskforce on Nursing released its report identifying the barriers that prevented nursing from realising its full potential. A key recommendation was the development of advanced clinical nursing roles that went beyond traditional and institutional boundaries. The constitution and work of the Taskforce is traced in this study, along with the struggle that arose between nursing groups for power to control the future of advanced nursing practice. The convergence of political discourses with those that were dominant in nursing during this period produced considerable tension and contributed to the eventual withdrawal of New Zealand Nurses Organisation representation from the Taskforce membership.
Nurse practitioner, politics, autonomy, unionism
In August 1998, the Ministerial Taskforce on Nursing released a report detailing its response to obstacles the nursing profession faced in realising its full potential. The overriding concern of the Taskforce members was to recommend ways to enhance the capacity of nurses to improve access to health services. A key recommendation was the development of advanced clinical nursing roles that went beyond traditional and institutional boundaries. These advanced nursing practice roles would include prescribing rights, access to diagnostic and laboratory testing and direct specialist referral. The Taskforce identified substantial attitudinal, structural, legislative and health purchasing barriers to the development of advanced nursing roles. Their recommendations however, did not arise from a unified nursing voice. Rather, a struggle within nursing arose over the power to control its future. Drawing on a recent research project (Wilkinson, 2007), this article traces the constitution and work of the Taskforce. The withdrawal of the New Zealand Nurses Organisation (NZNO) from the Taskforce following the second draft of the report highlighted the divisions present within nursing. Eventually, a consensus position was reached, making space for the consequent construction of the most expert nurse, the nurse practitioner. The manner in which consensus was reached is examined in a second article, also in this issue of Nursing Praxis in New Zealand. …cont.