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New Graduate Mental Health Nursing (NESP)

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Health New Zealand | Te Whatu Ora - Southern has provided a programme for new graduate nurses to work in the specialty of Mental Health since 1997. We offer a programme at post graduate level that is funded by Te Pou and accredited by the Nursing Council.

New Graduate Mental Health Programmes

Health New Zealand | Te Whatu Ora - Southern has provided a programme for new graduate nurses to work in the specialty of Mental Health since 1997. We offer a programme at post graduate level that is funded by Te Pou and accredited by the Nursing Council.

The New Graduate Programme is designed specifically for graduates of comprehensive nursing programmes to take a beginning practitioner role and to develop specific knowledge and skills required in the specialty field of Mental Health Nursing. You will be enrolled at the University of Auckland in two Post graduate Nursing Papers. On successful completion of both papers you will be awarded a Postgraduate Certificate in Health Sciences (Mental Health Nursing). You will also have a Level 2 portfolio which meets Nursing Council standards for competency.  

New Graduate nurses entering the programme are employed within mental health services in Southland and Otago with the aim to provide safe, supportive and stimulating environment to ease the transition from student nurse to registered nurse. 

Appointments will be subject to the passing of the State Final.

Placements within Health New Zealand | Te Whatu Ora - Southern (Otago/Southland) will be identified as part of the ACE National Recruitment Process as listed below.  For successful applicants who are needing to relocate to the Otago/Southland region to take up their NESP position from other parts of Aotearoa/New Zealand, there is a relocation grant of $2000 available. 

2024 New Entry to Specialist Practice (NESP)

For the 2024 intake, we are anticipating at least 15 new graduate vacancies across the Mental Health, Addictions and Intellectual Disability Service.
To apply go to the ACE website

We have opportunities across the region in community and inpatient settings, including:


  • Mental Health for Older Person's (Ward 6C) 
  • Forensic Secure Inpatient Unit (Ward 9A) 
  • Adult Acute Secure Inpatient Unit (Ward 9B) 
  • Youth, Adult and Maternal Acute Inpatient Unit (Ward 9C)
  • Intellectual Disability Rehabilitation Service (Ward 10A) 
  • Community Mental Health Team - Waitaki


  • Inpatient Mental Health Unit & Community Mental Health Team – Southland 
  • Community Mental Health Team - Balclutha
  • Community Mental Health Team - Queenstown

There could potentially be opportunities in areas not listed above as vacancies become available.

The NESP programme intake begins in January, however, your commencement date of employment will be negotiated between yourself and the Charge Nurse Manager. During this time, you will enrol with the University of Auckland an undertake a comprehensive range of Te Whatu Ora Southern orientation programmes. 

Programme Outline

The programme we offer has four cornerstones which enhance the engagement of the New Graduate with the learning experience:

  1. Clinical practice
  2. Preceptorship
  3. Clinical supervision
  4. Theory

1. Clinical Practice

Provides an environment that supports and enables the new graduate to develop their skills as Registered Nurses.  The new graduates will be employed by Health New Zealand | Te Whatu Ora - Southern into a permanent position in Otago or a one-year contract in Southland.

2. Preceptorship

Preceptorship is an educational relationship, which involves orientation, teaching support and guidance from a registered nurse in your clinical setting and the wider team.  The aim of the relationship is to assist the new graduate with the transition from student to registered nurse.  All preceptors attend a preceptor training workshop that is provided by Health New Zealand | Te Whatu Ora - Southern.

3. Clinical Supervision

Clinical Supervision is another vital cornerstone of Mental Health Nursing practice.  The aim of this relationship is to enhance safe practice, to provide a supportive environment for the new graduate to explore, examine, clarify and reflect on their experiences. At the start of the programme each nurse is allocated a clinical supervisor from another area. 

Faugier (1994) describes clinical supervision as "activity of examining one's practice with a more experienced and skilled professional in a formal relationship".

4. Theory

The theory content is aimed at providing specific information to add to your existing knowledge base and to extend your base of clinical skills.  This includes a comprehensive orientation to Health New Zealand | Te Whatu Ora - Southern Mental Health Service. Examples of content includes:

  • Mental Health and Physical Health Assessment
  • Recovery based Models of Care and Trauma Informed Care
  • Cultural Awareness
  • Development of Therapeutic Relationships
  • Addiction and Co-existing Problems
  • Talking Therapies
  • Legislation
  • Managing Risk
  • Stigma and Discrimination and Social Justice
  • Psychopharmacology

Entry Criteria

  • Newly Registered Nurse with an Annual Practising Certificate (APC)
  • Be a NZ citizen or hold a NZ permanent resident visa (there is a possibility for an exemption to this rule, contact us for more information)
  • Must have no restrictions of practice on the APC that would impact on their ability to participate in the programme
  • Must be able to work a minimum of 0.7 FTE (28 hours per week), can negotiate up to full time (40 hours per week)
  • The ability to study at Level 8 of the NZQA framework
  • Those RN’s wanting to extend their scope of practice into Mental Health, Addictions and Intellectual Disability should contact the Director of Nursing or the NESP Programme Coordinator
  • International Students are able to apply directly to Te Whatu Ora Southern alongside the ACE process. If they are successful in their application, then funding for the NESP programme will need to be applied for from Te Pou in conjunction with Te Whatu Ora Southern. Please discuss your intention to apply with the NESP clinical Coordinator who will guide you through the process. 

To apply go to the ACE website 

Contact Details

Catherine May
NESP Clinical Coordinator
Phone:  03 476 9366
Available Monday to Wednesday 0800 - 1700 (NZ Time)