[b:cd35388a10]English test makes NZ nurses sick [/b:cd35388a10]

By Martin Johnston

New Zealand nurses who want to work in Britain face new hurdles, including having to pass an English language test. In New Zealand, the Nursing Council requires overseas-trained nurses to pass the same test, but those who did their initial nursing training in English are exempt.

Under the British changes introduced in September, New Zealand nurses must also complete a 20-day training programme of supervised practice. The new rules apply to all nurses from outside the European Union.

About 400 New Zealand nurses go to Britain each year to work and the changes are already deterring some.

"It is causing people to reconsider their travel to the UK," Josephine Wallis, chief executive of recruiting company Geneva Health International, said yesterday.

"Everyone in the EU [including from non-English speaking countries] can just go and register straight away.

"But if you come from anywhere out of the EU you have these requirements, which is surprising because our qualifications and training have been highly regarded and respected and are akin to the UK system."

Places on the 20-day courses were in short supply, she said. Unions, training institutions and recruitment companies were lobbying against the changes. Associate Professor Judy Kilpatrick, of the Auckland University School of Nursing, said it was "ridiculous" to make New Zealanders pass an English language test.

"Young people going on their OE are being stupidly disadvantaged."

The tightening of rules is not confined to Britain. A Christchurch Polytechnic-trained nurse working in Afghanistan has been turned down by Cyprus. Rebecca Maddaford, 35, who qualified in 1997, sent details of her training to the Cyprus nursing council. In reply, it declared her training to be lacking in "theoretical input and educational practice".

This has shocked the head of the polytechnic?s School of Nursing, Cathy Andrew, who said it had a good reputation. "This has never been an issue before." Mrs Maddaford attributes her difficulties to a requirement by Cyprus for training of 4800 hours.

In New Zealand a bachelor of nursing degree takes up to 3600 hours, half clinical and half theoretical. Britain?s Nursing & Midwifery Council requires non-EU nurses to have training of at least three years or 4600 hours, at least half of it clinical.

Professor Kilpatrick said Britain packed more hours into three years because much of its training was hospital-based, unlike New Zealand?s university- and polytech-based courses.

Regardless, New Zealand nurses were accepted in Britain once they had accrued enough hours in the workforce, she said. A 4600-hour course would take four years in the New Zealand system.