In March 2023, the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia (NMBA) updated its policy in relation to re-entry to practice for nurses and midwives.
The ANMF has for several years advocated for an extended 10 to 15 years pathway for re-entry to practice. Most recently, we provided a submission to the Australian Nursing & Midwifery Accreditation Council (ANMAC) in May 2021 on behalf of members in order to influence an alternative re-entry pathway for lapsed and non-practising nurses and midwives (the submission, along with all others, can be viewed at anmf.org.au/resources/submissions).
The Board’s previous policy required all nurses and midwives who had lapsed in their practice for 10 or more years to show evidence that they had completed a recent, NMBA-approved program of study, which met the NMBA standards for a lapsed nurse or midwife, in order to re-register to practice. This was known as Pathway 1.
As of March 2023, the new change means that nurses or midwives who have not practiced for 10 to 15 years are afforded an opportunity to complete a shorter NMBA-approved re-entry to practice program known as Pathway 2. This update is currently considered an interim solution while the NMBA conducts a full review of the policy.
Pathway 2 and provisional registration
Under the Pathway 2 program, nurses and midwives who have not practiced for 10 to 15 years can apply to the NMBA for either provisional or general registration, with conditions.
The provisional registration period is for 12 months when granted to eligible practitioners to enable them to complete a period of supervised practice, or an NMBA-approved re-entry to practice program. When the requirements of the supervised practice or re-entry to practice program have been met, the practitioner is eligible to apply for general registration.
Provisional registration is only able to be renewed twice. It can be granted to nurses and midwives who have not practised for anywhere between five years and up to 15 years, and:
- have previously held registration in Australia, and
- do not hold current registration, and
- are now seeking to re-enter practice.
Read the full NMBA re-entry to practice policy.
While the Branch welcomes the changes, at this stage there are still very few re-entry programs approved by the NMBA. The approved re-entry to practice programs for registered nurses are usually structured to be completed over 12 to 16 weeks and include a clinical placement experience. Re-entry to midwifery programs vary in length and availability. There are no current re-entry programs available for enrolled nurses.
Members have also often found that accessing supervised practice is difficult. Many employers will not employ an applicant for a period of supervised practice for a number of reasons, including that the NMBA requirements are burdensome for employers. We continue to advocate for and support members to access supervised practice.
If you are currently a registered nurse or midwife but have not practised for a shorter period than five years, and want to refresh your clinical knowledge and skill before returning to practice, you may consider a refresher program. Several Victorian public health services offer nursing or midwifery refresher programs, allowing you to build your confidence and skills within a short period of time.
To find out about nursing or midwifery refresher programs, speak with your prospective employer and read the Department of Health Victoria factsheet.
Lapsed for more than 15 years?
A registered or lapsed nurse or midwife who has not practised for 15 or more years is not eligible for either Pathway 1 or 2. Members who fall into this category must demonstrate successful completion of an NMBA-approved program of study leading to initial registration, as identified by an NMBA-approved education provider (following recognition of prior learning).
However, as part of the Andrews Government’s policy making it free to study nursing and midwifery in 2023 and 2024, money has been allocated to fund former nurses and midwives to update their qualifications for free to re-enter the workforce.
The Department of Health is offering scholarships for up to 25 registered nurses and midwives per year to return to practice via the re-entry pathway. The total scholarship value is $15,000 per successful candidate.
The Department is also offering scholarships and support for 225 nurses and midwives to return to practice in public health services through a refresher pathway.