Coronavirus: Online ICU training for nurses varies between DHBs

By Rowan Quinn of RNZ 

There are huge differences across country in the number of nurses doing the training the government says will keep ICUs going when Covid-19 surges.

Health Minister Andrew Little has said 1400 nurses had done a four-hour online module which would allow them to be part of a surge workforce if intensive care numbers rise when Covid-19 is more widespread in the country next year.

But the numbers who have done the training vary widely between district health boards.

Taranaki DHB has trained nine, 21 nurses have completed the training at the much bigger Auckland DHB, 24 at Counties Manukau, 30 at Canterbury and 44 at Southern DHB.

At the small MidCentral DHB 382 had done the training, with 206 in Bay of Plenty and 188 in Nelson Marlborough.

Two weeks ago, RNZ asked every district health board how many nurses had done the module. Since then, three quarters have responded.

Many said their nurses were doing additional practical training.

College of Critical Care Nurses chairperson Tania Mitchell said the online module was of some help but hands-on training would be the most beneficial, "so when they're asked to come into the intensive care to help out that they've had exposure to patients, complex patients, and are used to doing the practical skills rather than just watching it on a video and learning about it online."

In-person training was harder to complete because it meant nurses had to be rostered off their normal jobs to go to an ICU to learn in person, she said.

The online module would help nurses learn to do only the most basic tasks, with the highly-experienced ICU nurses still doing the bulk of the care if Covid-19 hit in large numbers.

There was already a nationwide shortage of 90 nurses and many more would be needed next year.

The real answer was to get more trained nurses, initially recruiting them from overseas, Mitchell said.