Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia - COVID-19 guidance for nurses and midwives

COVID-19 guidance for nurses and midwives

COVID-19 continues to pose extreme 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 under very difficult circumstances.

The Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia (NMBA) recognises that nurses and midwives may be feeling anxious and concerned about decisions they may need to take to provide the best possible care in challenging and unusual circumstances. Nurses and midwives should use their professional judgement to assess risk and do their best to practise as safely as they are able, given the circumstances and situation. We recognise that there may be a need for you to adjust established approaches and procedures to provide appropriate safe care to patients and clients.

We know our regulatory approach must be modified to support you in these exceptional circumstances. The NMBA wants to reassure nurses and midwives that any issues brought to the NMBA, in relation to either registration or notification, will be considered in light of practising in these circumstances.

The NMBA also expects that employers of nurses and midwives will provide an environment that is as safe and supported as possible.

What we are doing

As regulators, the 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 have introduced new policies that are facilitating getting more nurses and midwives into the health system, increasing employer flexibility and cutting red tape. Some examples include changes to supervision requirements for those wanting to return to practice and the introduction of the Pandemic response sub-registers.

In addition, the NMBA has changed its existing policy and standards framework and recognises the unprecedented new environment in which nurses and midwives are practising in as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

These changes are about supporting a different approach to care, to be able to meet people’s needs at this time while still meeting the standards of safety the community expects.

For the latest updates on COVID-19 relevant for all National Boards, please also see the Ahpra website and visit www.health.gov.au or your local health department’s website. 

Please also visit the COVID-19 frequently asked questions page , which answers a range of questions about how the Boards would respond to requests for changes to the way that we register individuals in the context of managing the health sector impacts of COVID-19.

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 together with Ahpra and the 14 other National Boards, released the position statement Registered health practitioners and students and COVID-19 vaccination in March 2021. All National Boards strongly encourage all registered health practitioners and students (particularly those undertaking placements in various practice settings) to have the full COVID-19 vaccination course as scheduled unless medically contraindicated

If you know or suspect you are infected with COVID-19, 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.

We also encourage you to take steps to look after your health, including to seek help when needed. 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

Facilitating access to care in a COVID-19 environment

The National Boards and Ahpra have developed guidance to help support good practice in the COVID-19 environment. The guidance reinforces existing codes and guidelines and other publicly available information and does not introduce new or different requirements for practitioners.

The NMBA expects all nurses and midwives to facilitate access to care regardless of someone’s vaccination status. People cannot be denied care if steps can be taken to keep the person, health practitioners and their staff safe. 

Facilitating access to care in a COVID-19 environment: Guidance for health practitioners (208 KB, PDF) Word version (120 KB, DOCX)

Context of practice

The NMBA describes the scope of practice of the nursing and midwifery professions through the accreditation standards and standards of practice.

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

A nurse or midwife's context of practice can change over time, and in these challenging circumstances should be managed between health practitioners, their employers, supervisors and colleagues. Health services can utilise 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 may 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 Australian Nursing and 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 NMBA and ANMAC have and will continue to work with education providers and other stakeholders to support students and graduates as much as possible.

Up to date information for education providers and students enrolled in NMBA-approved programs of study can be found via the ANMAC website under 'News and resources - Coronavirus (COVID-19)'

Clinical placements during the COVID-19 pandemic

The NMBA and 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 has worked with ANMAC to develop a number of documents relevant to nursing and midwifery students and clinical placements.

Visit ANMAC's News and resources webpages for up-to-date information for educational providers and students enrolled in NMBA-approved programs of study.

Continuing Professional Development (CPD)

The NMBA is aware that there are many CPD activities that are COVID-safe options and many CPD programs and providers have now adapted their programs to be COVID-safe. We encourage you to continue to do CPD that is relevant to your context of practice and your current work environment. 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 believes that most nurses and midwives will be meeting their CPD requirements through new learning related to COVID-19. However, we understand they may not have kept their usual CPD records and reflections.

You must answer all renewal questions honestly and accurately. If you believe you have met the CPD requirements, you can declare this at renewal even if you haven’t kept relevant records. The NMBA will not be auditing nurses and midwives against the CPD standard this year, although we may still take action against a nurse or midwife who makes false declarations at renewal.

CPD evidence may still be requested for nurses and/or midwives who declare that they are unable to meet the Registration standard: Recency of practice

Please refer to the Registration renewal fact sheet for more information.

Pandemic response sub register 

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

 
 
Page reviewed 22/02/2022