Learn the legislative efforts to protect nursing titles
“A NSW court has fined a woman who worked as a registered nurse at a medical centre despite being unqualified and unregistered”.
“A NSW District Court has varied the sentence imposed by the NSW Local Court on a woman who worked as a medical intern at a hospital despite being unqualified and unregistered”
Have you ever come across someone who calls themselves a nurse but could be a carer? Or a medical assistant? There have been many such cases where a person has worked as a nurse or a midwife, despite being unqualified and unregistered.
Under the Australian National Law, there are specific titles which are referred to as ‘protected titles. This means that only those people who are registered or endorsed, in a particular profession can use the titles associated with that profession. Nurse is one such title, as is the title of midwife.
In Australia, nurses are regulated health professionals who go through approved training pathways to become registered to practice with the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia (NMBA).
If you’re a nurse or midwife, you will have worked and studied hard to gain your qualifications… It would not have been an easy ride… Years of study, successful completion of your nursing degree, and undergoing postgraduate studies. It doesn’t stop here… annual training and competencies such as first aid courses, drug calculation and other mandatories, along with CPD, as well as five-yearly training not to forget, the initial licensing and annual renewals with AHPRA.
The laws and regulations are all the more important to protect the profession. Nursing is a sacred profession – nurses are usually the first point of contact for their patients. The quality of nurses’ initial assessment and follow-up is critical for achieving good health outcomes. So when people misuse this title and falsify information, it violates the public’s trust in the profession and the nurses who have worked so hard to earn the title of a nurse. AHPRA and NMBA work in tandem to regulate health practitioners practising in Australia to make sure no one holds themselves out as a nurse when they are not.
Nurse and midwives are protected titles in Australia
The National Law sets restrictions on the use of protected titles. Some of the protected titles are:
- Registered Nurse
- Enrolled Nurse
- Nurse Practitioner
- Midwife Practitioner
In Australia, all nurses are registered to practice by the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Authority (AHPRA). It is through the process and credentialling of registration with AHPRA that the title of a nurse is awarded.
Nurses in Australia need to renew their registration every year.
How to apply for AHPRA registration?
If you are a student nurse, a recent graduate or have practised in New Zealand, you need to apply for your AHPRA registration.
Online applications to register as a nurse or midwife are open to :
- final-year students that are due to complete within the next twelve weeks an Australian-approved program of study, or
- graduates that have completed an Australian-approved program of study within the last two years,
- midwives who hold a current annual practising certificate with the Midwifery Council of New Zealand and who are applying for registration in Australia under the provisions of the Trans Tasman Mutual Recognition Act, or
- nurses who hold a current annual practising certificate with the Nursing Council of New Zealand and who are applying for registration in Australia under the provisions of the Trans Tasman Mutual Recognition Act.
To apply for registration, you can start your online application on the AHPRA website here.
Submit your documentation, including:
- For graduates – graduate results provided by your education provider
- Relevant fee
- Certified copies of your proof of identity
- Health impairments
- English language skills
- Criminal history
How do I check the registration of a nurse or a midwife?
It’s pretty simple.
AHPRA maintains a national register for nurses and midwives, which is accessible to the general public. You can search the register either with name or registration numbers to find out their status.
A person can practice if their name is on the register. Sometimes, a person may have a different registration name. In that case, you won’t be able to find them on the list. So you may need to check with them or ask them for their registration number.
Can you call yourself a nurse or midwife once your application is lodged?
No, you need to wait for your application to be finalised, and you need to wait until you receive advice from APHRA before you use any of the protected titles.
Can you maintain your registration if you are not currently practising?
A non-practising registration allows the use of the title ‘nurse’ or ‘midwife’ but it does NOT allow you to practise. Apply for a non-practising registration if you would like to maintain your registration.
What to do if you think someone is misusing the title of nurse?
If a practitioner’s name does not appear on the AHPRA public register or you have questions about the details shown, you should call AHPRA on 1300 419 495 to have a confidential conversation.
AHPRA also has a list of cancelled practitioners and a list of practitioners who have formally agreed not to practise. The practitioners on these two lists are not allowed to provide any services as health practitioners, and cannot call themselves a nurse.
The role of AHPRA is to protect the public by making sure that only nurses who are suitably trained and qualified and who practise in a competent and ethical manner, are registered, and only when they are registered, can they call themselves a nurse.