New English Language Skills Registration Standard

Nursing and Midwifery Board revises standard for testing registrants’ knowledge of English.

A revised standard for English language skills for nurses came into effect on 19 September.

Applicants who have completed a minimum of five years (full-time equivalent) of combined secondary and/or vocational and/or tertiary education taught and assessed in English, in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Republic of Ireland, South Africa, the UK or the USA are considered to have met the standard and do not need to sit an English language test. All other applicants are required to submit evidence of English proficiency.

The revised standard also recognises the different education requirements for nursing and midwifery, and each category of nursing. For Registered Nurses and Registered Midwives, two of the required, full-time-equivalent five years of education must be a pre-registration program of study taught and assessed in English in one of the listed countries. For Enrolled Nurses, one of these five years must be a pre-registration program of study taught and assessed in English in one of the listed countries.

The Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia (NMBA) now has the flexibility in the future to consider and/or grant an exemption to a defined group, through developing nationally-consistent policy, if compelling evidence arises demonstrating English language proficiency to the standard for a defined cohort/s.

‘For example, if the Board has compelling evidence from a cohort of applicants who think they can demonstrate that their English language proficiency is equivalent, it provides the capacity for further consideration. Currently, the Board does not have such an exemption process,’ said NSWNA Assistant General Secretary Judith Kiejda.

Transition provisions are in place for currently enrolled students who are soon to complete their courses. Students due to complete their course by the end of 2011 or who complete their outstanding course requirements by 30 March 2012 must either meet the Board’s previous (to 18 September 2011) requirements in relation to English language skills, or they can opt to meet the Board’s new registration standard, which came into force on 19 September 2011.

The revised standard does not change the requirement for applicants who must submit evidence of proficiency in English through their English test results.

‘This group must still achieve a minimum of level 7 in one sitting in each of the four components – listening, reading, writing and speaking – of the academic International English Language Testing System (ILETS), or a B score or above in one sitting in each of the four components of the Occupational English Test,’ said Judith.

The revised standard brings it in line with the standard of the other National Boards representing various health-care professions.

Overall, the NSWNA supports the changes to the standard. ‘We are relatively happy with the changes. They provide a little more flexibility than the previous standard but the academic IELTS remains the same. We are concerned about the validity of the test. However, this is currently being reviewed by the NMBA and we look forward to the outcome of the review,’ said Judith.

For detailed requirements of the standard, lodge an online enquiry at or phone 1300 419 495 (within Australia) or +61 3 8708 9001 (overseas callers).