Health care has been transformed since nursing education was last examined in 2002, and the pace of change continues to accelerate. To ensure that nurses are adequately equipped for new and diverse roles, the Australian government’s Stronger Rural Health Strategy called for an independent examination of the educational preparation of nurses, and related matters. This report presents the outcomes of that review.
The primary source of information for the review was stakeholder feedback. More than 1,100 educators, clinicians, supervisors, policy-makers, patient group members, students, managers, and union representatives accepted the offer to attend a consultation. In addition, the review received 84 written submissions, commissioned four research papers, and conducted surveys of specially targeted groups. Like all reviews, this one focuses on areas that can be improved, but it would be a mistake to think that Australian nursing education is flawed, second-rate, or struggling. There is much that is excellent about nursing education. Nevertheless, there are processes, practices, and procedures that could work better, and this report represents my independent view of how to go about making the necessary improvements.
- To protect the public, assistants in nursing (whatever their job title) should have mandated education, English language, and probity requirements, which are accredited, assessed, and enforced by a robust quality-assurance regime.
- The Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia (NMBA) (in association with the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) and other professional boards) should commission research comparing the validity of various English language proficiency tests for assessing nurses’ language skills in a work environment. This research should form the evidence-base for choosing and implementing an appropriate test for registration purposes.
- The NMBA should require all candidates for registration to undergo an independent assessment to demonstrate they have the literacy and numeracy skills required to practise safely.
- The NMBA practice standards should specify the core knowledge, skills, and procedural competence newly registered ENs and RNs require to function in any workplace setting.
- The Department of Health should review the Rural Health Multidisciplinary Training Program guidelines to ensure that nursing education gains the benefits of longer regional placements, interdisciplinary training, and travel subsidies.