If you are a nurse who wants to work and live in Australia, you may be wondering how to become a registered nurse in 2023 in Australia from overseas. Australia is a popular destination for nurses from different countries because of its high-quality healthcare system, diverse culture, and attractive lifestyle. However, to practice as a registered nurse in Australia, you need to meet certain requirements and standards set by the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia (NMBA), which is the regulatory body for nurses and midwives in the country.
In this article, we will explain the steps and processes involved in becoming a registered nurse in 2023 in Australia from overseas, and compare the two options available for international nurses: the Outcomes-Based Assessment (OBA) and the Nursing Conversion Program.
What is the Outcomes-Based Assessment (OBA)?
The OBA is a new assessment model introduced by the NMBA in October 2019 to evaluate the knowledge, skills, and competence of internationally qualified nurses and midwives (IQNMs) who want to register and work in Australia. The OBA has replaced the Initial Registration for Overseas Nurses programs or IRON programs, which were short bridging courses that IQNMs had to complete before applying for registration.
The OBA consists of two stages:
1.A multiple-choice question exam or MCQ, which tests the cognitive abilities of the IQNM in relation to the Australian nursing standards and context. The MCQ is delivered online by Pearson VUE, a global testing provider, and can be taken at any of their test centres around the world. The MCQ is based on the NCLEX-RN exam, which is the licensing exam for registered nurses in the United States and Canada. The IQNM needs to pass the MCQ before proceeding to the next stage of the OBA.
2.An objective structured clinical exam or OSCE, which tests the behavioural abilities of the IQNM in relation to the Australian nursing standards and context. The OSCE is a practical exam that simulates real-life scenarios in a clinical setting, where the IQNM has to demonstrate their skills in patient care, communication, clinical decision-making, and professional practice. The OSCE is delivered by an NMBA-approved education provider in Australia, and can only be taken after the IQNM has passed the MCQ and obtained a visa to enter the country. The IQNM needs to pass the OSCE to complete the OBA and apply for registration.
3.The OBA is designed to ensure that IQNMs have the same level of competence and performance as Australian graduate nurses, and are able to provide safe and quality care to the Australian public. The OBA is also expected to benefit IQNMs financially, as it is cheaper and faster than the previous IRON programs, which could cost up to $15,000 and take up to six months to complete.
What is the Nursing Conversion Program?
The Nursing Conversion Program is an alternative option for IQNMs who want to register and work in Australia, but do not want to take the OBA or do not meet the eligibility criteria for the OBA. The Nursing Conversion Program is a formal education program that leads to a qualification in nursing that is recognised by the NMBA and equivalent to an Australian bachelor degree in nursing. The Nursing Conversion Program is offered by various universities and colleges in Australia, and can be completed either on-campus or online, depending on the provider and the IQNM’s preference.
The Nursing Conversion Program typically consists of the following components:
1.A recognition of prior learning or RPL, which is an assessment of the IQNM’s previous nursing qualifications and experience, and determines the amount of credit or exemption they can receive for the program. The RPL can reduce the duration and cost of the program, depending on the IQNM’s individual circumstances and the provider’s policies.
2.A core curriculum, which covers the essential knowledge and skills required for nursing practice in Australia, such as anatomy and physiology, pharmacology, pathophysiology, health assessment, nursing theory and research, ethics and law, and cultural competence. The core curriculum also includes clinical placements, which are supervised practical sessions in various healthcare settings, where the IQNM can apply their learning and gain experience in the Australian context. The core curriculum can vary in length and content, depending on the provider and the IQNM’s RPL outcome.
3.An elective curriculum, which allows the IQNM to choose from a range of subjects that suit their interests and career goals, such as mental health, aged care, paediatrics, critical care, community health, and leadership and management. The elective curriculum can also vary in length and content, depending on the provider and the IQNM’s RPL outcome.
4.The Nursing Conversion Program is designed to enhance the IQNM’s knowledge and skills in nursing, and prepare them for the Australian healthcare system and standards. The Nursing Conversion Program can also provide the IQNM with a higher level of qualification and recognition, and open up more opportunities for career advancement and further education in Australia.
How to Choose Between the OBA and the Nursing Conversion Program?
The choice between the OBA and the Nursing Conversion Program depends on several factors, such as the IQNM’s eligibility, preference, budget, and goals. Here are some questions that can help the IQNM decide which option is best for them:
1.Am I eligible for the OBA? To be eligible for the OBA, the IQNM must have a nursing qualification that is not substantially equivalent or based on similar competencies to an Australian nursing qualification, and have at least three years of paid clinical experience as a nurse in the past five years. The IQNM must also meet the English language proficiency requirement set by the NMBA, which can be achieved by taking one of the following tests: IELTS, OET, PTE, or TOEFL. The IQNM can check their eligibility for the OBA by completing the self-check tool on the NMBA website.
2.Do I prefer a shorter or longer pathway? The OBA is generally shorter and faster than the Nursing Conversion Program, as it can be completed in a few months, depending on the IQNM’s availability and preparation. The Nursing Conversion Program, on the other hand, can take up to two years or more, depending on the IQNM’s RPL outcome and study load. The IQNM should consider their personal and professional circumstances, and how soon they want to start working in Australia, when choosing between the two options.
3.How much can I afford to spend? The OBA is generally cheaper than the Nursing Conversion Program, as it costs around $3,000 to $4,000, depending on the IQNM’s location and the fees charged by the test providers and the education providers. The Nursing Conversion Program, on the other hand, can cost up to $30,000 or more, depending on the IQNM’s RPL outcome and the fees charged by the education providers. The IQNM should consider their financial situation and the return on investment, when choosing between the two options.
4.What are my career goals? The OBA and the Nursing Conversion Program both lead to the same outcome, which is registration as a registered nurse in Australia. However, the Nursing Conversion Program can also provide the IQNM with a higher level of qualification and recognition, and open up more opportunities for career advancement and further education in Australia. The IQNM should consider their long-term aspirations and interests, when choosing between the two options.
Becoming a registered nurse in 2023 in Australia from overseas is a rewarding and challenging journey, that requires the IQNM to meet the requirements and standards set by the NMBA. The IQNM has two options to achieve this goal: the OBA and the Nursing Conversion Program. Both options have their advantages and disadvantages, and the IQNM should weigh them carefully and choose the one that suits their eligibility, preference, budget, and goals. By doing so, the IQNM can fulfil their dream of working and living in Australia as a registered nurse.