Needless Hurdles

Janelle Atkinson, qualified nurse and midwife
Janelle Atkinson, qualified nurse and midwife

The search is on to find 1400 nurses and midwives to fill the new ratio positions, yet AHPRA is placing unnecessary obstacles in the way of nurses wishing to return to the profession.We have a chronic shortage of nurses, funding has become available for around 1400 new jobs in the public health system and many nurses and midwives who who took time out to have children now want to return to work.

It should be simple: all efforts should be made to help these nurses back into nursing.

Yet, many nurses and midwives have told the NSWNA they face numerous obstacles to re-entering the workforce.

Under the new national registration system a nurse or midwife in NSW, seeking to return to practice after a break of more than five years, must complete a re-entry to practice program.

NSWNA General Secretary Brett Holmes says the new system has created many unnecessary obstacles to re-entry at a time when around 1400 nursing and midwifery positions have been promised for public hospitals in NSW.

‘We are concerned that NSW nurses and midwives wishing to return to professional practice do not have reasonable access to programs approved by the Nurses and Midwives Board of Australia,’ he said.

‘The College of Nursing has a waiting list of applicants for their program and the $10,000 fee for this program will deter many nurses from taking the required steps to return to the workforce.

‘We are also concerned that there is no Board-approved re-entry to practice program for midwives on the entire eastern seaboard of Australia.’

The re-entry process is arbitrary

Brett Holmes says the NSWNA has several other concerns over aspects of the re-entry to practice program.

‘NSWNA believes that re-entry should be on the basis of competency relevant to the profession and other Board requirements for registration, such as the ‘fit and proper’ person test, medical fitness and English language proficiency.

‘Nurses and midwives who haven’t practiced for 10 years shouldn’t have to undertake another qualification without the opportunity to demonstrate their competence.’

A major issue for the NSWNA is the retrospective application of the recency of practice laws, which has left many nurses in NSW with as little as six months to provide evidence of three months practice.

‘For many nurses the goalposts have been moved. Many nurses and midwives took a career break to have children believing they would be able to renew their registration and return to work when their children entered pre-school. These plans have been disrupted,’ he said.

‘Many were unaware of their new obligations as their focus was on their children. It is the NSWNA’s opinion that applying this standard retrospectively can be perceived as discriminatory.’