Unnecessary hurdles for nurses wanting to return to work Part 2


The search is on to find 1400 nurses and midwives to fill the new ratio positions, yet AHPRA is placing unnecessary obstacles in the way of nurses wishing to return to the profession.

Many nurses and midwives have told the NSWNA they face numerous obstacles to re-entering the workforce. See Janelle’s story here. 

Under the new national registration system a nurse or midwife in NSW seeking to return to practice after a break of more than five years must complete a re-entry to practice program.

NSWNA General Secretary Brett Holmes says the new system has created many unnecessary obstacles to re-entry at a time when around 1400 nursing and midwifery positions have been promised for public hospitals in NSW.

‘We are concerned that NSW nurses and midwives wishing to return to professional practice do not have reasonable access to programs approved by the Nurses and Midwives Board of Australia,’ he said.

‘The College of Nursing has a waiting list of applicants for their program and the $10,000 fee for this program will deter many nurses from taking the required steps to return to the workforce.

‘We are also concerned that there is no Board-approved re-entry to practice program for midwives on the entire eastern seaboard of Australia.’

Brett Holmes says the NSWNA has several other concerns over aspects of the re-entry to practice program.

‘NSWNA believes that re-entry should be on the basis of competency relevant to the profession and other Board requirements for registration, such as the ‘fit and proper’ person test, medical fitness and English language proficiency.

‘Nurses and midwives who haven’t practiced for 10 years shouldn’t have to undertake another qualification without the opportunity to demonstrate their competence.’

A major issue for the NSWNA is the retrospective application of the recency of practice laws, which has left many nurses in NSW with as little as six months to provide evidence of three months practice.

‘For many nurses the goalposts have been moved. Many nurses and midwives took a career break to have children believing they would be able to renew their registration and return to work when their children entered pre-school. These plans have been disrupted,’ he said.

‘Many were unaware of their new obligations as their focus was on their children.
It is the NSWNA’s opinion that applying this standard retrospectively can be perceived as discriminatory.’

Please leave your comments below. We want to know what our nurses think of the Recency of Practice laws.

Image credit: NSWNA – The LAMP.

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  1. ” … the search is on to find 1400 Nurses … ”

    Rubbish !!

    Hundreds of RNs & ENs are unemployed, while NSW Health lies to the people of NSW, that there is a ‘Nursing shortage’.

    When a hospital advertises they are recruiting three ( 3 ) positions, and they line up 40 interviews … is that indicative of a ‘Nursing shortage’ ??

    Lies, damn lies !!!


  2. Rubbish!!
    I know of at least 12 nurses where I work that are begging for a position, but cant get past being on casual pool

    The NSW College of Nursing has lost all its credibility in my eyes by charging $10,000. They have a monopoly and where monopolies exists there is no fair playing ground

  3. My opinion is that the $10,000 fee is purely a money making project by the College of Nursing. I am TRYING to re-enter the workforce but did not gain the required 456 hours…fell short by about 72….. I am appealing the decision to refuse my registration but am being passed from pillar to post.

    This is all so ridiculous….
    I have been orientated (as a RN) to my local hospital and now cannot work there.

    I had to take out a personal loan for the Assessment of Competence Program and this had to include enough money for accommodation, food etc.

    The College of Nursing say the Clinical Component of the Program cannot be done at a local facility….HELLO!!!! There are country Based Universities with facilitators in local public hospitals who would be well qualified to assess competence.

    When will common sense prevail????

  4. Well the replies from MP’s have begun to trickle in and not one of them address the issue at all. They just point me in the direction of scholarships offered by NSW Health, retraining organisations, registration boards etc. Also talked about the extensive consultation etc with the various interested parties to make sure we have nurses of the highest calibre working in the industry and how they are committed to this…blah, blah. Both sides of politics have the same view btw. Media anyone??

  5. We have thought about it and the DOC of the aged care Facility where I was working when my Registrtaion was revoked was so annoyed that she rang Ray Hadlee. Don’t know what happened after that……….

    Maybe 60 minutes or ACA will take it up?

  6. Definitely think the media is the way to go. I’m on board even though up here in Queensland. Am 12 years out and keen to go back to work as an RN/RM. Left to have my children and now face 4 years Uni to return. Ridiculous…I would try any or all of the media outlets surely one will take it up?

  7. I have spent the past 5 years bringing up 2 children as a single mum.Prior to this I worked as a nurse, I have a Bachelor Degree. I am currently a casual nurse with current registration. I do not have enough hours under my belt to meet the practice standards, and cannot see how I will before my renewal. I only found this out a day ago, I haven’t slept since. I cannot believe I will lose my career just like that. I have no extended family here, I love my job and want to work. I was hoping to increase my hours in February when my daughter starts school. How will I support my children? Centrelink are encouraging me to work, and I want to, and yet on the other hand the government are doing this to me. I am only 39. What will I do now? I would be happy to do a refresher course, though of course I don’t have 10 thousand dollars or any way of organising childcare for a full time course. How are families with small children meant to do this? I feel very stressed and I am right in the middle of the school holidays. I feel angry with myself for not keeping up to date with their requirements, I know that the local hospital need more regular staff!! I feel like a huge stupid failure. How does any of this make sense? Happy New Year!

  8. Good news since my last post. Have secured some more childcare so hopefully I can increase my hours and complete the amount needed before I register! Good luck everybody else, the system isn’t fair, especially for mothers who have taken time out to have children. I don’t think we were informed enough about the changes to the practice laws.

  9. I have been paying my registration fees for the last ten years, I went to renew my registration with AHPRA in May 2011. I was told that my registration was under review and that I would need to go back to university and do another Bachelor Of Nursing Science again. As a mature age student when I got my undergraduate degree with a lot of Nursing experience prior to doing study and also as a Distinction Average student I find it insulting to be told I have to take 3 years out of full time employment and pay another $20000 to obtain the same bachelor degree again. It is absolutely ridiculous. I did offer to AHPRA to do the assessment of competancies course at my own expense of $10000 which would have at least given me the opportunity to Shine:) but was not even given this opportunity. I have spoken with the academic advisor of James Cook University who also said that if you have passed a subject at the university you are unable to sit repeat that subject again. Has any one contacted all the universities in NSW regarding the Re-entry to practice course which was available pre nationalisation. I have also been raising my family and caring for my elderly father over the last decade and feel very discriminated against. As nursing is a predom inantly female dominated industry I do not think an absence of 10th years is really that long especially when you have more than 5 children. Good luck to all who are in my position, I feel as I have been paying my registration the Nursing Board of NSW has some obligation to assist

  10. I wonder how many people have been affected? This is so wrong, perhaps we should be organising some kind of protest? How many people have lost their jobs? How impossible have they made it for us to return? Losing your whole profession in one fell swoop with one law change which obviously a lot of people haven’t noticed at all. Women who need to support children and want to work?!!!

  11. I think it is time for a mass protest. This needs to come from current nurses and nurses who are trying to get back in. My wife stopped work in 2005 to raise our children, now she has been advised to do a re entry course worth $10000….where do i get that from? Now $10000 per re entry x 20 students per class = $200000…boy I’m in the wrong job.

    I really feel for you nurses who cannot return to work because of the AHPRA and governement red tape.

    IT IS TIME…..to take a stance, i’m not a nurse but I am willing to organise a rally protest if others are willing to come on board…..it is time to stand up and let these pen pushes take notice of the health system.

  12. Surely if enough Nurses feel they weren’t adequately informed about the changes, maybe Legal advice needs to be sought? I think a lot of nurses would have gone back as soon as they realized, people have been caught out and time has passed and then they have lost their registration. People haven’t deliberately flaunted the rules. A lot of these nurses are women with small children who were busy looking after them! It was a change, and nurses needed to be informed.

  13. I too have lost my registration while being a full time mum to 4 young children. And yes time passed, and registrtaion lost while in the middle of todller tantrums, waking nights and nappies (not to mention the other million things it takes to raise 4 young children)

    In fact i don’t disagree with the standards, but it just seems that by bringing the changes in one foul swoop we are loosing nearly half a generation of nurses who have been at home with young children over the last few years.

  14. Whilst every story here is quite relevant …

    I think there are too many threads running concurrently, which ‘may’ have the effect of diluting the punch this issue has.

    Can Nurse Uncut somehow combine all the relevant threads into the one ( keep all responses thus far, on all the relevant threads ), and continue with the topic at hand …

    This will allow all of us to go through ALL the responses, and get a better picture of just how serious this matter really is. Hopefully, any pollies monitoring this website can also keep track of how this issue affects so many people.

  15. I just wanted to share with you all that this is not only a problem occurring in NSW.
    I am a mum of 3 who left nursing 12 years ago to work in the pharmaceutical industry. Last February I decided that I would love to get back into nursing and started the lengthy process with AHPRA. After 10 long months, and many hurdles I have been told by AHPRA that my degree in nursing is useless and that there is NO way for me to ever nurse again other than to repeat my 3 year bachelor degree!! It astounds me that I can use this degree to become a teacher by undertaking a short course, however the nursing workplace is completely out of my reach. Hopefully we can bring about a change in this in the future as I am sure there are many of us out there who would like the opportunity to work as nurses again.

  16. I urge you all to download a copy of the Re-entry to nursing petition which you can find on the NSWNA homepage and get as many signatures as you can before the end of March 2012.

  17. I have been through the same mill as all of you. Have not practiced since 2004 &, although having 30years experience, am faced with the same seemingly insurmountable roadblocks. Surely one of us has the ability to organise a “media event”…seems to me that nothing short of an expose on national television is going to help us.

  18. I have found myself in the same situation as Charlie and many others.10.5 years out of practice and not qualified by AHPRA even for 12 weeks, 10000$ program. Back to uni. I have just finished paying off my previous degree. I am from Victoria, sorry, noticed petition too late, barbara

  19. Sarah, what has been the outcome of the petition and what can still be done? There are still many of us reeling from these imposed changes.

  20. I am disheartened to realise how many of us in the same boat!
    Personally until I had my children I have always been a nurse, I went from assistant nurse to enrolled nurse to registered nurse to gaining my degree and becoming a clinical nurse consultant in community health. I have recently divorced and need to work…. I am not qualified for anything else and was stunned to find I am not able to gain my registration back without embarking on another degree, how can this be?
    I would be so happy to work in aged care where I know they desperately need nurses . I just want a chance!

  21. just wondering if anyone is applying to do the IHNA online re-entry course? i’m considering it, if i can manage to get a local clinical placement.

      • Look up on the website for IHNA ( institute of health and nursing Australia), online Reentry or return to practice program for registered nurses. They will accept interstate applicants, but 4 day block is held in Melbourne or Perth. The rest is all online study and assessments, plus a 4 week clinical placement.

  22. I am insulted by the demands of APHRA to re enter the profession! I have worked through 4 pregnancies and then had a break just on 5 years until my youngest starts school. I was shocked to discover that none of my qualifications or experience (17 years, grad dip in crit care etc) matters.The cost is outrageous and the fact that there is only one place in NSW to do the assessment of competency course is unattainable and logistically impossible for many. I know of so many women, friends who have returned to work after 10 years in professions such as teaching, law, marketing etc and have not had to go through the unnecessary hurdles that we do. I will be writing to my local MP, state health minister and ferociously challenge APHRA. No one should have to apologise and be punished for taking time out to care for their family. This is just discrimination!

  23. Ali, keep up the fight. there are many of us like you and we have to keep writing to our local/state/federal MPs. I have, and many MPs don’t know anything about this issue. Also, join the Nurses union as our voice and strength will only be heard if we have the numbers.

  24. My wife finally got a result – for many hours of emails and phone calls.

    She was successful in securing a NSW Govt. scholarship for the whole $10,000.

    However, ‘red tape’ prevails! Apparently, it’s not a total gift – they were very clever to place the requirement of a ‘transfer’ to the recipient’s personal bank account, where it is then to be EFTed to the CON.

    That then makes it taxable!

    So the $10,000 really equals about $7,000 or so.

    Transport, accommodation, and child-care will still put the total cost to each individual as well over $5,000 (even considering the $10,000 scholarship )

    • Gordo…I don’t understand the taxable thing for the scholarship and how it turns to $7000, can you explain how that works. Cheers.

  25. The Aydney Adventist hospital is offering re-entry for around $4000.
    Check it out.
    Unfortunately no re-entry for midwives. That is running in Australia! I have spoken to every hospital on the AHPRA list of re-entry courses.

    $10k is unaffordable. I am a midwife by passion but work as an RN due to circumstance, and now cannot return to my passion. Really, does a midwife forget such a skill, just needs a little refreshing of current issues, but hands on preceptoring is the only way.
    So why do we have all these educators in hospitals? Where has all the commonsense gone in nursing? Recency of practice in rural areas where midwives/RN is high demand. The technocrats are biting off their noses to spite their faces!

  26. Mr Brett Holmes, I believe that if this issue was given the publicity it deserves, it would be resolved virtually overnight. Why is this not happening?

    Regards, Charlie

  27. The Sydney Adventist course is a refresher course for already registered nurses.

    To meet recency of practice, the NMBA courses are re-entry courses. The Australian College of Nursing course is stressed as “an assessment of competence” course…a place to prove your competence as a good nurse. And believe me, having successfully completed this course, I am glad to have been able to do it.

    Although, yes, stressful at times (even just the process to get a scholarship and place in the course was stressful enough) I am glad to have done this course … it was a real eye opener also to what really is expected from me as a nurse.

    And for anyone considering a scholarship…..push through and find a local area health that can offer you a position….I got a scholarship, and although initially I thought being on a 2 year contract was a bit binding, I’m glad for it now as other people self-funding on my course are now finding it hard to secure permanent employment.

  28. I am in the same position, just tried to re-enter the workforce … even prepared (but not happy) to pay the course fee, but because I have been out of the workforce for 12yrs my diploma was completely redundant. If I wished to work as a nurse/midwife I would need to repeat my university studies.
    Since leaving nursing I have worked in a doctor’s surgery and worked as a breastfeeding counselor for ABA, which has required me to keep up to date with the latest information about breastfeeding. Apparently none of this counts, you are required to work in a clinical setting. I still feel comfortable with my nursing/midwifrey knowledge, but of course completely understand that I would need to complete some proficiency program and upgrade my knowledge, but an entirely new degree? There has to be a role for people like us in the community … maybe we should start a whole new profession?

  29. Hi guys I have my BA in Nursing from uni but have not worked as a nurse for nearly 12 years. Thought I would go back to nursing and do the refresher course but I cannot find one in Bendigo or close by.. Castlemaine have finished the course and not taking any more. How hard can it be to provide accurate information. Do they really want nurses to return to work!!

  30. Does anyone know of Unis in NSW who undertake Midwifery Training for ‘old’ Midwives who couldn’t get AHPRA’s required hours for re-registration?

    I don’t really fancy moving to Vic, SA, WA etc……

    Thanks 🙂


  31. I have only just expired as a nurse and that is what it feels like. How can Aphra and the registration board justify allowing NUMs who have worked in a office environment for over 10 years dealing with more about staffing issues and budgets keep their registration? That’s right because when there is an in-service they put their names on and they pay the yearly fee so that they are still up to date with the clinical setting. My NUM used to have a panic attack when she was required in the OT, she was better at informing surgeons that there last patient was cancelled than finding ratted in the second drawer.

    I worked in the OT, even when registered I would not have felt comfortable on the ward, nursing is specialised and there should be a course to re-enter based on the area you have experience and the area you want to work in.

    I am in the OT at least 3 times a week training nurses to do joint replacement surgery. My colleagues have kept their registration and just made sure the paperwork was filled in to meet the requirements even if it wasn’t actually done. There is no checking of this data, they continued to pay the yearly fee and therefore can still go back at any time.

    I think I have the answer, become a politician.

  32. I do not understand how as nurses we let Aphra gain the power to make it so difficult for returning nurses.

    I bet the nurse trained administrators are registered and that the Aphra office is considered a clinical environment. We let nurses who are NUMs register every year even if in the position for more than 10 years. I worked in the OT my whole career and would have been useless on the ward as I only had around 6 weeks clinical through my training.

    I have given up on ever returning to nursing, I am in the OT 3 days a week educating nurses on joint replacement equipment and have watched how paperwork is more important than patient care.

    I understand there needs to be a level of compentency with nurses, but after working for 6 years in the OT as a nurse I have not forgotten what the role was or sterility, or how to count to 10, or is there a diathermy plate on the patient – these are skills that are ingrained in your brain and you will have forever.

    If I was witness to a drowning or car accident I would still know how to perform CPR. It is wrong that we as nurses have let the legislation become what it is today. I am not sure what the union does except put a few ads on the tv around election time.

    I would be happy to sign a contract with a hospital and work there for 2 years in return for a 6 week training program to educate me on the skills I may now require in OT.

    I think media like Alan and Ray could help highlight the issue but with the health minister we have at the moment I think she has more pressing issues to deal with. Maybe I should become a politician instead of trying to return to nursing, it does not seem to be as difficult as nursing. We become nurses because of the person we are. We care about patients and want to assist in getting them to good health. You don’t learn that or read it in a textbook and despite Alpha’s opinion you don’t lose that even after 10 years.

    Good luck everyone…


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