A Kaiwaka nurse getting back in to the profession says NorthTec's return to nursing course is a "brilliant way" of addressing the shortage of nurses in Northland.

Earlier this year Northland District Health Board and NorthTec joined forces to help previously registered nurses return to the profession as a way of meeting growing demand and addressing the nursing shortage in Te Tai Tokerau.

Northland DHB has 24 full-time equivalent nursing vacancies, compared with 18.32 last year. But a spokeswoman said there was a consistent need for about 24 nurses at one time.

Now, changes have been made to NorthTec's return to nursing programme - which has been running for a while now, generally for international nurses needing to gain their registered nurse qualification in New Zealand - so that it is more flexible, and to generate more interest.

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"This programme is important because we have nursing staff shortages and predictions for a growing nursing shortage," Dr Bev Mackay, NorthTec's nursing pathway manage, said.

Linzi McGowan, who has nearly completed the programme, trained as a nurse in the United Kingdom and worked there for 10 to 12 years before coming to New Zealand in 2001.

Here she worked as a theatre nurse at what is now known as MercyAscot, a private hospital in Auckland.

She left in 2008 for a variety of reasons and started working in jobs like medical transcription, caregiving and dental nursing.

"Before you know it you think 'I haven't done nursing for a while.'

"I've always done medical stuff but I let my nursing practising certificate lapse and so I thought I'd like this one last chance to get back into nursing again," she said.

The return to nursing course will focus solely on supporting nurses back into practice.

Changes made to the programme include Northland DHB offering placements for those wishing to return to nursing, and the flexibility of part time placement in the DHB as previously students had to do a five week full-time placement.

McGowan said she applied to the NorthTec programme and spoke to a tutor on the phone.

"I said 'am I out of it too long, am I too old?' I asked all the obvious questions thinking I've let this go too long and she said 'no, by all means give it a chance' and I started the course at the end of May. I'm hoping to finish soon and apply for a job."

McGowan said she believed "once you're a nurse, you're always a nurse" and said the programme was a great way of addressing the nursing shortage.

"I know people who have actually done [similar programmes] and carried on their nursing career so I think it's a brilliant way of not doing a huge long course, recognising that nurses have got the skills still at any age," she said.

McGowan is currently doing her placement at Kensington Hospital. She said her nursing knowledge came back to her easily.

"Some of the technology has changed and you have to ask questions. But the basics are the same," she said.

Dee Telfer, Northland DHB acting director of Nursing and Midwifery, said the DHB will be able to offer graduates either full-time or part-time employment across the region, and said the support for nurses would continue after study.

"We host supportive return to work programmes with intensive orientation and mentoring. There are also ongoing opportunities to continue your professional development either in-house or through postgraduate study," she said.