EN education changes in NSW

From next year, those undertaking government-funded EN education should have access to a new model.

The move by NSW Health to bring Enrolled Nurse education into line with the rest of the country has caused considerable confusion.

Sensational media reports of aspiring nurses’ dreams being permanently quashed are seriously ill informed and mostly wrong.

The bottom line is that those intending to undertake government-funded EN education in the future should have access to a new model from next year.

According to NSW Health, public funding for EN education in NSW will now most likely be offered through the Department of Education and Training.

The changes mean that the Trainee Enrolled Nurse intake in April 2009 will be the last under the current delivery model where trainees are employed throughout their 12-month course. NSW Health will maintain the contract with TAFE NSW until these trainees complete their course in April 2010.

NSW has been the only state in the country with an employment model of education for ENs. All other states and territories have what is known as ‘pre-service education’, where students go to TAFE (or another approved education provider) for theory and attend placements in hospitals for their clinical learning, much like the Bachelor of Nursing course.

The implementation of the national Certificate IV, Diploma and Advanced Diploma EN qualifications in 2007-2008, provided NSW Health with, in their view, a logical opportunity to bring EN education in NSW in line with all the other states and territories. If pre-service EN education works in other states and territories it should be able to work in NSW.

But a lack of understanding around the complexity of funding arrangements and the way EN education operates in other states and territories has resulted in considerable confusion about the future of enrolled nursing in NSW.

The key point, misunderstood by many in NSW, is that NSW Health is confident that government subsidised places for EN education will remain – as they do in all other states and territories (alongside a range of full-fee paying options), though funded through their respective education departments rather than their health departments.

So while it appears the full-fee course is the only remaining option for future EN education in NSW, the fact is that situation is unworkable and most likely temporary.

There are a variety of complex funding mechanisms at state and federal levels that could be made available for EN education in NSW but these will take time to access and implement successfully.

The move to pre-service education for ENs in NSW is significant and will gradually alter the shape of the nursing workforce in many of our hospitals. From 2010, there will be no more TENs in the system. NSW Health’s Nursing and Midwifery Office expects to see more EENs in the system as the changeover occurs.

And while change is always challenging, the NSWNA is optimistic about the future of enrolled nursing in NSW.

The NSWNA will continue to work with NSW Health, TAFE NSW and other key stakeholders, such as employers, education providers and the NMB, to ensure clear information is available for members and to assist in the continued delivery of quality EN education in NSW.

Regular updates on EN education will continue to be published in The Lamp.