Enrolled Nurse position under threat

Plan to `dumb down` EN training and qualifications.

The position of Enrolled Nurse would be seriously undermined if proposed employer-sponsored changes to nurse training and other health qualifications are approved.

The EN could be replaced by a multi-task worker who would carry out some nursing functions as well as non-nursing duties.
This radical change is being driven mainly by the non-government health industry and is aimed at lowering wages bills through greater ‘workforce flexibility’.

Known as the National Enrolled Nurse Project, the plan will replace the current NSW TAFE qualification for ENs.

The TAFE qualification will be replaced by a set of ‘competency standards’ for ENs outlined in the National Health Training Package.
Students could study units of competency in specific combinations to achieve a qualification such as EN.

They may also study some (but not all) EN units of competency in combination with other non-nursing units.

NSWNA Assistant General Secretary Judith Kiejda said the proposed system could result in a ‘dumbing down’ of EN qualifications.
‘It could be harder for ENs trained under the new system to advance along the career path to the position of Registered Nurse,’ said Judith.

‘Also, non-nurses could be trained to attain some EN competencies in order to take over work currently performed by ENs.’

Judith Kiejda said the NSWNA would welcome a single national EN qualification but not if it lowered EN standards and handed nurses’ work to non-nursing employees.

‘A national qualification should enhance the role of the enrolled nurse, not diminish it,’ she said.

‘The NSW Nurses’ Association will fight to preserve the value and integrity of EN qualifications and standards.

‘We oppose a situation where a worker could be assessed as being competent in certain areas of nursing without actually being a nurse.
‘We have set up an Enrolled Nurse Working Party and we welcome input from members (see box),’ said Judith.

The National Enrolled Nurse Project is being carried out by the Community Services and Health Industry Skills Council Ltd, a body dominated and influenced by employers both private and public. The Skills Council is working with the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Council to write EN ‘competencies’ into the National Health Training Package.

Judith Kiejda said the National Health Training Package does not specify course content curricula, course duration or delivery mode, or teacher qualifications.

‘The training package only specifies the combination of tasks or “skills” a learner must be able to perform to be assessed as competent.

It is designed to maximise flexibility for employers first and learners second,’ she said.

‘Once this project is complete, the national qualification will be the only program available for ENs – there will no longer be a NSW enrolled nurse program.’

Judith said it was essential to ensure that the core units in the new national EN qualification are aligned to the EN ‘competencies’ being developed by the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Council.

‘We must ensure that these core units are only accessible to those undertaking a full EN education / training program,’ she said.

‘And the national EN qualification must continue to require approval by the Nurses and Midwives Board NSW.’

Have your say 
The NSW Nurses’ Association has set up an EN Working Party comprising ENs, RNs, Nurse Educators, EN Coordinators and NSWNA officers.

They share a common concern that the current standard of enrolled nursing in NSW, and therefore the nursing workforce, may be degraded by the enrolled nurse project.

The working party urges members to discuss the issue with colleagues and your DONs.

You can give your feedback or raise your concerns about the proposed changes to EN education. Go to the Public Health. No Fix Without Nurses campaign area on the NSWNA website – http://www.nswnurses.asn.au/topics/2222.html – and send an email to the Community Services and Health Industry Skills Council.

Dangers of the National Enrolled Nurse Project 
Unless strong opposition can be built, the National Enrolled Nurse Project could result in:

  • A potential erosion of the value of Enrolled Nurses’ contribution to health care delivery in NSW.
  • Potential creation of a generic worker used to carry out many non-nursing duties, rather than an Enrolled Nurse.
  • Access to nursing units, possibly medication administration, by non-nursing workers.
  • Inadequate career pathway for Enrolled Nurses.
  • Increased confusion for enrolled and registered nurses in NSW.

Nurses’ jobs could go to less-skilled workers

Nurse Educator Mardi Daddo fears the day student nurses sit in classrooms with caterers, cleaners and maintenance workers, all studying the same nursing ‘unit of competency’.

‘We should all be concerned by the prospect of nurses being replaced by less-skilled workers,’ argues Mardi, a Nurse Educator for North Sydney/Central Coast Area Health Service and a member of the NSWNA EN working party.

‘The move towards national qualifications is a good thing – but it’s not good that a person off the street can do a short course and gain qualifications in some nursing units,’ she says.

‘This is how the system works in the United States, where people who have trained as operating theatre technicians work in theatre with no understanding of nursing and health.

‘They are not really connected to what’s going on in the hospital. They have no holistic, big-picture knowledge of patient care.’

The Nurses’ Association wants to maintain the integrity of nursing by influencing the outcome of the National Enrolled Nurse Project.

‘We are doing this by working with the Australian Nursing Federation, TAFE and NSW Health, the major employer of nurses in this state,’ said Judith Kiejda.