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Australia resumes registration process for internationally qualified nurses and midwives as restrictions ease

Source: Getty Images/JohnnyGreig

After waiting for months, many internationally qualified nurses and midwives will soon be able to revive their hopes of working in Australia. The Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia (NMBA) has announced that it will resume the ‘new assessment model’, which was halted due to COVID-19 restrictions soon after it was introduced.

In March this year, Australia moved to a new assessment model for the registration of internationally qualified nurses and midwives (IQNMs), which was supposed to replace the existing bridging program.

However, soon after launching the new ‘Outcomes Based Assessment (OBA)’, the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia was forced to stop the process due to the COVID-19 restrictions.

The NMBA told SBS Malayalam that only “some IQNMs have been able to complete registration this year”.


  • The first phase of the two-step OBA has already started
  • The second phase - OSCE - will be starting soon
  • Bridging program extended for those who already have a referral

However, as restrictions are easing in Australia, the NMBA has decided to restart the process.

Dates to be confirmed soon

The newly introduced Outcomes Based Assessment is to be completed in two phases.

The model includes a multiple-choice question (MCQ) exam and an objective structured clinical exam (OSCE) for candidates who hold relevant but not substantially equivalent qualifications.

However, “the COVID-19 pandemic has caused delays for candidates, with the providers of the MCQ exam and the OSCE closing their services temporarily,” the NMBA said in a statement.

Assessment model for nurses
Getty Images/Jetta Productions Inc

“Many accreditation processes worldwide had to temporarily close during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.”

Nurses and midwives can complete the MCQ exam in their home country before traveling to Australia for the OSCE, which is conducted in Adelaide only.  

Pearson Vue is the testing agency delivering the MCQ exam for registered nurses, known as the NCLEX-RN exam.

Their website shows that they have restarted the examination procedure in many countries including Australia, India, Philippines and England. However, in many other countries, it is still unavailable or very limited.  

For midwives, the NMBA is offering MCQ exams directly and they have restarted its delivery already.

However, the OSCE is yet to resume.  

“The NMBA anticipates that the first OSCE sitting dates for registered nurses will be confirmed soon,” a spokesperson told SBS Malayalam.

Candidates waiting to sit the OSCE will be contacted directly by the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (Ahpra) when the exam is available.

NMBA said

Considering the international travel restrictions due to the coronavirus pandemic, the NMBA and AHPRA have decided to give an extension for the bridging program also.  

“In light of the COVID-19 pandemic affecting the availability and accessibility of courses, the NMBA and Ahpra can further extend the timelines for those candidates with a referral to a bridging program,” the NMBA said.

The bridging program was supposed to be wound back in this December.

However, many applicants who had already got referrals were not able to complete it.

“There are many applicants that I know who were not able to travel to Australia for completing the bridging program,” Melbourne based education consultant from Jaison Thomas said.

Long wait

Mr Thomas told SBS Malayalam that there were scores of applicants that he knew have been waiting to sit for the OSCE after clearing the MCQ exam.

One among them is Raisa Varghese, who completed the MCQ a few months ago.

Raisa Varghese
Raisa Varghese

Ms Varghese, who is on a temporary visa in Perth, holds a post graduate degree in nursing from India.

“I have cleared the MCQ in August this year. This has been a frustrating wait after that,” she told SBS Malayalam.

“As it is a new system there is no clarity about how to practice for this. So, I have been using the resources provided by AHPRA and been training myself.”

“For a nurse coming from a country like India, which has a different healthcare system, it will not be easy to crack the OSCE.”

The OSCE is a testing method used to assess whether an IQNM possesses the knowledge, skills and competence of a graduate-level Australian nurse or midwife, says the NMBA website.

The NMBA has published a handbook to help candidates understand the system.

“The RN OSCE exam consists of 10 stations (or clinical scenarios) that have been developed to test candidates against the NMBA Registered Nurse Standards for Practice. The OSCE is set at the entry to practice level that is expected of a Registered Nurse in Australia”, the handbook explains.