Fact sheet: Transition to a new assessment model for internationally qualified nurses and midwives

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The Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia (NMBA) undertakes functions as set by the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law, as in force in each state and territory (the National Law). The NMBA regulates the practice of nursing and midwifery in Australia, and one of its key roles is to protect the public. The NMBA does this by developing standards, codes and guidelines which together establish the requirements for the professional and safe practice of nurses and midwives in Australia.

As part of its public protection role, the NMBA in partnership with the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) is responsible for assessing registration applications from internationally qualified nurses and midwives (IQNMs) to ensure they are suitably trained and qualified for registration in Australia.


Prior to the commencement of the National Registration and Accreditation Scheme in 2010, the assessment of IQNMs was undertaken by the state and territory boards. In 2010, AHPRA developed a national model for the assessment for IQNMs.

In 2013, legal advice provided to the NMBA confirmed that under the National Law, the NMBA could only consider the qualifications of an individual applying for registration and not their professional experience. In response to this advice, AHPRA and the NMBA developed an interim model of assessment for IQNMs which has been in place since 2014. The interim model is based on eight qualification assessment criteria and has resulted in a more equitable and consistent assessment of IQNM applications.

Transition to a new model of assessment for IQNMs

The NMBA is moving to a more permanent approach in the assessment of IQNMs. Changes under the new model will include reducing the current eight assessment criteria to three criteria.

This change will streamline the assessment process; however, the outcomes from assessments will remain the same as under the current eight criteria.

In early 2020, the NMBA will also transition to an outcomes-based assessment (OBA) for IQNMs who hold relevant but not substantially equivalent qualifications (and who meet the mandatory registration standards), replacing the current need for bridging programs for these applicants.

The NMBA undertook an extensive research project to explore the factors and requirements to establish an OBA which made recommendations that:

  • the overall assessment process includes both a cognitive and behavioural component 
  • the cognitive assessment must be passed before the behavioural component is attempted, and
  • an orientation program is established to orientate nurses and midwives to working in the Australian healthcare context. (Based on this recommendation, the NMBA will establish an orientation program for all IQNMs applying for registration in Australia.)

The following sections answer common queries about the new model of assessment for IQNMs applying for registration in Australia.

The new model for assessment of IQNMs is planned to commence in early 2020.

Yes. All IQNM applicants will need to provide evidence of meeting the NMBA registration standards.

Yes. There are three parts to the orientation program.

Part one will be an online assessment to introduce IQNMs to Australia and the Australian healthcare system.

Part two will cover the diversity of the Australian culture and will be completed once registered with the NMBA and will be a condition of your registration until it is completed.

Part three will be provided by the IQNM’s employer, based on NMBA guidelines.

No. All IQNMs will have their qualifications assessed and only IQNMs qualifications that don’t meet all the required assessment criteria will be directed to the outcomes-based assessment pathway. Some IQNMs may need to complete an NMBA approved program of study if they do not hold a relevant qualification (under section 53 of the National Law).

Costs are yet to be determined and information will be available on the NMBA website as soon as possible.

The cognitive assessment will be a computer-based multiple choice questionnaire.

The behavioural assessment will be in the form of an objective structured clinical examination (OSCE).  The OSCE has been developed to assess the behavioural skills of an IQNM that reflect the knowledge and skills of an entry level Australian nurse or midwife.

This pathway to registration will continue until the new OBA assessment commences in early 2020. Information regarding the commencement date of the new model will be provided on the NMBA website soon.

Page reviewed 15/05/2019