National registration - English requirements

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    When the new Australian national registration system for nurses started in July, the English language requirements for new registrations were tightened. There has been some back and forth regarding overseas nurses from other English-speaking countries, but I think at the moment the registration board requires you to sit an English test if you did your secondary (high school) education in a non-English speaking country. This is not just for overseas-trained nurses, it includes new grads from Australian universities.

    I understand the reasoning behind having strict language requirements for health professionals. I'm just somewhat confused about the need to have an English test at the exit point of an education, when international nursing students already have to sit such a test to be accepted into any Australian university.

    What does it say about the quality of our universities when the registration board doesn't trust successful graduates to have a working knowledge of English? Surely you cannot possibly pass all your exams, assignments, and clinical placements without being able to communicate well?

    I'm a permanent resident and I have lived in Australia for the best part of a decade. My grad entry nursing degree is my third degree at an Australian university. I have a Journalism degree and an International Relations Masters degree. I work for the government when I'm not at uni, where I use English at an advanced working level both in written and spoken form. My secondary education, however, was in a non-English speaking country.

    Therefore, before I graduate next year, I have to pay $350 to sit an English test. I'm not too worried about the test, but as a student I have better things to spend my money on. So I'll have a bit of a whinge about it.

    Is it just my petulance about having to pay for this test that renders me unable to see the logic of forcing new grads from Australian universities to prove their competence in English?
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  3. 8 Comments so far...

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    I can understand your frustration, previous uni degrees surely can count for secondary education in english, but the 7 in IELTS is not new from AHRPA all the state nursing councils had the July before now insisted on 7 IELTS but the universities kept taking students with less. Hence the problem....

    It has and still is a big problem that many nurses that come to this country may understand and write english, but cannot speak it....this has caused many drug errors, reporting of patients conditions and ended up to be deprimental to many Australians health. (Not saying this is not done by Australian speaking nurses too, but this has been identified as of much concern by nurses of ESL) So therefore across the board they have insisted on an IELTS of 7.

    Believe me you can do a whole Australian nursing/teaching degree with very poor speaking english skills in the past, quite amazing and overseas students can apply for consideration if english is their second language to get them a pass, because of money considerations.

    An overseas nurse, depending on their country, can do a short course in 8- 12 weeks, if they did not insist on communicative english as well (IELTS at 7 one sitting) this is a very short time to acquire good english skills, not like a full degree. Unfortunately, you have been caught up in (what we say) politics gone mad....sorry for the inconvience. Maybe with your advisory job with the government can get through to the government department involved with AHPRA h and you can remedy your situation.

    ps. I do know some law, journalism and accounting degrees only ask 6 in IELTS.
    pss sure you want to contiue nursing? I just do not know how happy you would be in this occupation either? there is some crappy jobs we have to do.
    Last edit by ceridwyn on Sep 24, '10
    Scrubby and talaxandra like this.
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    I completely agree that we should have strict requirements on English proficiency for nurses. It just seems to be more logical to place that requirement at the beginning of a degree rather than at the exit point. And it makes me worry about the quality of Australian nursing schools if students are passing without a working knowledge of English.

    Anyway, as I said, I'm being petulant. I'll sit the test, but not without whingeing about it for a while

    oh, and I really don't mind doing the "crap" jobs. The exciting parts of nursing make up for that! And it's certainly better than sitting behind a desk all day getting fat and lazy.
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    Most of the time, written and listening english is good, speaking it is the problem, have fun...
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    I appreciate your frustration. And if you're an Australian nurse, fully educated in a native English speaking country, you need to take an English proficiency exam to get registration in the UK - but if you're from, and educated in, a non-English-speaking EU country you don't. Just something to think about
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    Only loosely related, i wanted to tell you the funny thing that happened when I, an American sat for the IELTS so i can register In AUS...
    I was at the testing center in Washington DC, minding my own business when a very swarthy gentleman approached me. He had some sort of Middle Eastern accent, but I couldn’t quite make out where he was from.
    “Excuse me, miss? Can I ask you why you are taking this test?” I explained I wanted to be able to work as a nurse in Australia,
    His mouth fell open and he blurted out:
    “But you’re so white, so very, very white!” I laughed all the way home, a two hour drive.
    I scored 8.5 out of 9 on the IELTS, I was a little miffed and when I explained to my friend, that I’d like to think I was fluent in my native tongue he replied:
    “Well, you’re not! You start sentences with “because” all the time!” I told when the question is “Why?” sometimes the answer is “because!”
    One other funny think that happened due to our linguistic differences: here in the US “lucked out” is a very good thing; it means you were incredibly lucky… Pretty much the opposite of how my friend uses it, since he’s from Melbourne…
    I made some comment about having lucked out, meeting him and he just about died! I actually had to look it up in the slang dictionary to show him I was really happy and felt fortunate!
    I do admire the initiative of the AUS government making sure healthcare practitioners can speak English; I think it’s very important for patient safety. I do understand the frustration of having to pay for and sit for one more exam.
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    I can personally relate to your situation as I am in the same shoe. I have been living here in Australia for over 15 years, have citizenship and considered myself Australian. I also work for the Australian government. Surely there is some kind of system would exempt for people like you and I? To add insult to injury, I work as an interpreter, now this is becoming interesting, having been recognised by NAATI (National Accreditation Authority for Translators and Interpreters) on one hand and being asked to sit an IELTS (International English Level Test) Is it just simply a form of generating revenue at the cost of shortages of nurses? I, like you is unable to see the logic of new grads from Australian universities having to prove their competence in English at completion of the degree. This is absurd; We must do everything we can to stop this happening in Australia.
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    There are so many what if and what fors...students that have entered nursing this way or that way, studied english year here or there.....it would take forever to make some decisions as it would come down to splitting hairs.

    If they (AHPRA) had to employ someone just to assess each individual who is exempt and who is not compared to all the criteria that would take months to just to give guidance about english requirement, for just some of the scenio's for overseas, immigrant students and nurses, our annual fees will go up even more making them extremely high...

    Have to go out on a limb for this one.....I agree with AHPRA straight across the board as does the United Kingdom for Australian nurses must pass the IeltS to go there when all our lives we have only spoken english.....welll orstraaliian english anyway.

    PS You have not been in an acute situtation as yet needing information quickly from someone that you cannot understand. Defective communication has gone on for many years between ESL nurses and english speaking and now this will put everyone on an even par.

    As I said in an earlier post, you can go through a university degree and have exceptable writing and comprehension skills, but poor speaking, this is the problem most of the time.....they get by with their clincials because mentors are told if they complain of their students poor english, the rac.....ts.....word becomes an issue and no one wants to be labelled that because you could loose your job.

    I do not think there is a shortage of nurses, nurses with specialities and experience, yes.
    Last edit by ceridwyn on Sep 28, '10
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    Well given the number of nurses I've had to work with lately who are quite frankly UNSAFE because they cannot communicate and managed to get through the bridging courses it's fairly obvious that the standards aren't high enough at universities. I'm glad that things are being tightened up because too many of us are having to do the work of two nurses.
    ceridwyn likes this.


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