The process of securing NHS jobs for overseas nurses has undergone a significant change, with the launch of a revamped registration process by the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC).
Coming into effect from October 2014 onwards, the new system will see nurses and midwives who completed their training outside the European Economic Area (EEA) become subject to new assessments of their eligibility to gain entry to the NMC register.
Mirroring the system that has already been adopted by other healthcare profession regulators, the purpose of the refreshed process is to ensure that foreign nursing staff are assessed in a more comprehensive and objective way, thus ensuring that care quality standards within the NHS are upheld.
However, workers themselves also stand to benefit from the change in a number of ways, not least of which is the fact the new system is set to be substantially more cost-effective than its predecessor. However, in order to ensure they are ready to comply with the new rules, they must get educated on its various ins and outs at the earliest possible opportunity.
The new-look registration process incorporates a number of changes and administrative tasks, but at heart of the reforms is a brand new two-part test of competence that will replace the current minimum three months of supervised practice that overseas nurses were previously required to complete.
It will consist of a multiple choice computer-based examination that presents nurses with different scenarios to deal with, followed by a practical objective structured clinical examination (OSCE). The test will assess applicants against the NMC's standards for pre-registration education and ensure they are capable to fulfilling the responsibilities of an NHS nurse.
Nearly 5,000 people who trained outside the EEA have registered with the NMC over the last five years, with the majority coming from India, the Philippines and Australia. As such, the regulator has designed its new process to conform to an internationally recognised and rigorous standard.
Jackie Smith, NMC chief executive and registrar, said: "The new process further demonstrates our continued commitment to making sure public protection remains at the heart of the systems and processes we use to maintain the register and reputation of the nursing and midwifery professions."
The new system will apply to any applications from overseas nurses and midwives submitted after October 1st 2014 and will consist of six main steps.
Step one - declaring eligibility
Applicants will first need to complete an online form to show they meet the basic minimum requirements for working in the NHS, including competence in English language communication, successful completion of a three-year undergraduate education and training programme or equivalent, 12 months post-registration practice experience, and a self-declaration that they are of good health and character.
Step two - test of competence
Once their eligibility has been confirmed, nurses will sit the first part of the test of competence, a computer-based examination that can be taken at an evaluation centre in the applicant's home country.
Information gleaned from this test will indicate which competencies will be assessed in the later exam. If they do not pass, applicants can re-apply to take the test again, but they will need to wait at least six months to do so if they fail for a second time.
Step three - full application
At this stage, applicants will be required to upload their documents and evidence via the online system to support their previous declaration, with ID, evidence of qualifications and prior registrations, and at least two employment references all needed. An assessment fee will also be paid at this stage.
Step four - assessment of training and experience
This step involves the NMC examining the uploaded documents to ascertain they are valid and meet all requirements. In cases where the supplied materials are insufficient or incorrect, applicants will be contacted to provide the necessary items within six months.
Documents will include:
Step five - OCSE
As described above, the OCSE test will present candidates with a range of clinical settings that they may expect to encounter as a nurse or midwife. Each scenario tests a range of skills, knowledge and behaviours, and has been designed by clinical and educational experts.
The examination will be completed within one day and need to be organised with the UK university responsible for delivering it. Before taking the test, candidates will have access to outline videos of OSCEs, details of behaviours which indicate active listening and caring, and information on how they will be observed and assessed by the examiners.
Step six - admission
Once all other steps are completed, applicants will complete their final declaration and pay the registration fee, allowing them to be included on the NMC register. In total, the cost for the entire process will come to around £1,403 to £1,613 - much lower than the current system, which generally costs between £1,773 and £2,373.
Prospective candidates who spend time examining these requirements will be well-prepared to navigate the new-look system as soon as it comes into effect, ensuring their application process is as smooth as possible.
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