COVID-19 guidance for nurses and midwives

COVID-19 is posing unprecedented challenges to the health system, health practitioners and the wider community. We sincerely thank nurses and midwives for their continuing commitment and care for people. We know our regulatory approach must be modified to support you in these exceptional circumstances. 

What we are doing

As regulators, the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia (NMBA) and Ahpra must balance public safety with the need to enable governments, hospitals and nurses and midwives to do what is needed to respond to COVID-19.

While maintaining standards to keep the public safe, we are introducing new policies that will get more nurses and midwives into the health system, increase employer flexibility and cut red tape.

The changes reflect the NMBA’s existing policy and standards framework and recognise the unprecedented new environment in which nurses and midwives are now practising as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

These changes are not about lowering professional standards or providing a lesser standard of care -- this is a different approach to care to meet people’s needs at this time. We are closely monitoring the situation and will make further changes as needed.

For more information, please read the Statement from the NMBA. For the latest updates on COVID-19, please see the Ahpra website and visit www.health.gov.au or your local health department’s website. 

The NMBA will provide resources to assist nurses and midwives to practise safely during the COVID-19 response on this page as they become available. 

Looking after your own health

The NMBA does not expect you to place yourself in harm’s way while providing care. We urge you to ensure effective use of personal protective equipment and follow relevant infection control requirements and public health advice.

The NMBA is aware some health services will be reduced or stopped, including where care cannot be provided in ways that ensure both the health practitioner and the patient’s safety. 

If you know or suspect you are infected, you should follow current public health advice including self-isolating. If you have pre-existing health conditions that increase your risk of infection, you should actively manage this, such as by discussing it with your colleagues, employer or place of work.

Remember, all nurses and midwives have access to a free, confidential health support service. Nurse and Midwife Support is available 24/7 on 1800 667 877. 

Policy updates and changes

Continuing Professional Development (CPD)

The NMBA encourages you to continue to do CPD that is relevant to your scope of practice and your current work environment. However, we understand that some nurses and midwives may have trouble meeting the CPD requirements during this challenging time. You should answer all renewal questions honestly and accurately.  

Nurses and midwives are reminded that the following learning opportunities may also contribute to CPD hours:

  • COVID-19 in-services
  • reading and reflecting on COVID-19 journal articles, and
  • COVID-19 infection control training - online training modules (please see Australian Government Department of Health website for more information).

The NMBA will not take action if a nurse and/or midwife declares that they could not meet their required CPD hours for the 2019-20 registration period.  However, CPD evidence may be requested for nurses and/or midwives who declare that they are unable to meet the Registration standard: Recency of practice

Nurses and midwives with supervised practice registration conditions

We are temporarily removing the requirement for a period of indirect supervision for nurses and midwives re-entering the professions. 

Nurses and midwives who currently have conditions on their registration requiring them to complete a period of supervised practice to re-enter their profession and who have:

  1. completed their direct supervision period in an approved setting, and 
  2. provide Ahpra with a Supervision report from their supervisor that supports that they are competent to practice

no longer need to complete the supervision conditions for the residual period of indirect supervision. These conditions will be removed from their registration after they renew. 

Pandemic sub register 

Please see the Ahpra website for more information on the Pandemic response sub-register.  

Scope of practice

The NMBA understands that health services are likely to need to call on nurses and midwives to practise outside their usual scope to meet unprecedented demand.

Under the Health Practitioner National Law Act, the NMBA does not regulate the scope of practice of nurses and midwives. Scope of practice should be managed between health practitioners, their employers, supervisors and colleagues. Health services can rotate nursing and midwifery staff as necessary, but must ensure that they are working in roles that they have been educated and trained in and are competent in. Where appropriate, they will also need to be receiving adequate supervision.

The NMBA has published a Decision Making Framework to guide nurses, midwives and employers about changes to scope of practice.

The NMBA has published the following fact sheets related to scope of practice for nurses, midwives and employers:

Education providers and NMBA-approved programs of study

The NMBA and the Australian Nursing & Midwifery Accreditation Council (ANMAC) understand that the ongoing and changing situation surrounding COVID-19 may mean that nursing and midwifery students are not able to attend classes or clinical placements and that extensions to the length of programs to enable students time to complete may be required.

The following fact sheets provide further information for nursing and midwifery students:

Clinical placements during the COVID-19 pandemic

The NMBA and the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Accreditation Council (ANMAC) are aware that some students are unable to complete their clinical placements because they have been paused or cancelled due to COVID-19. We recognise that this is a stressful situation for students which may delay their graduation and the start of their careers. 

Whether it is safe and possible for clinical placements to proceed at this time is for education providers and health services to decide. They must consider the safety of students, practitioners and the public in line with the COVID-19 guidance in their state or territory. Clinical placement is a vital part of nursing and midwifery education to ensure nurses and midwives are fully equipped to practise safely. 

Ahpra and the National Boards, together with the Australian Government and the Health Professions Accreditation Collaborative Forum, have set National principles for clinical education during COVID-19 to guide decisions of professions, accreditation authorities, education providers and health services about student clinical education during the COVID-19 pandemic response. 

The NMBA and ANMAC will continue to work with education providers and other stakeholders to support students and graduates as much as possible during this difficult time. 

The NMBA has worked with ANMAC to develop the Explanatory Note CoCE During Covid-19 Pandemic - Continuity of Care Experiences during COVID-19 pandemic 2020. This document is intended to assist Australian education providers address challenges that students in midwifery programs might have in achieving the mandated number of continuity of care experiences as outlined in the Midwife Accreditation Standards 2014 as a result of restrictions imposed during the COVID-19 pandemic and has also been supported by the Chief Nursing and Midwifery Officers, the Australian College of Midwives and the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation. 

COVID-19 recruitment for nurses

State and territory health departments have set up specific recruitment to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic – please see links below (we will update links as new workforce information is added):

To work as either an enrolled nurse, registered nurse or midwife you must either hold current registration or be eligible for registration.

Refresher programs for nurses and midwives 

Non-clinically practicing nurses and/or midwives who wish to return to clinical practice in response to COVID-19 may need to undertake a refresher program to ensure that they are safe and competent to practice.

A list of current refresher programs available is set out below however, due to the evolving nature of COVID-19, nurses and/or midwives who wish to complete a refresher program are advised to regularly review the websites of relevant state and territory professional associations, colleges and education providers for more courses, availability and eligibility requirements.

Please note the following refresher programs are not NMBA-approved programs of study:

Education provider Program Details Link
Australian College of Nursing Refresher program for registered nurses 36 hours, online  www.acn.edu.au/education/cpd-online/refresher-program-for-registered-nurses
Australian College of Nursing Refresher program for enrolled nurses  36 hours, online www.acn.edu.au/education/cpd-online/refresher-program-for-enrolled-nurses
Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (Vic Branch) Re-orientation to acute care setting  2 days, face-to-face  https://cpd.anmfvic.asn.au/events/viewitem/883
Australian College of Midwives Refresher program for midwives  37 hours, online  www.midwives.org.au/refresher-program-midwives
 
 
Page reviewed 21/05/2020