Fitness to practise

The Council’s role is to protect the health and safety of the public by ensuring that nurses are competent and fit to practise. The Council carries out this role by considering the competence, health or conduct of a nurse and deciding whether the nurse should have to comply with certain conditions in order to practise.

In serious cases where there is a public safety risk, the Council may suspend the nurse from practice. 

For more information, see the documents in the right hand downloads box on this page.

Competence

Nurses must meet the required standards of competence for their scope of practice. If you are a health practitioner and have reason to believe that a nurse may pose a risk of harm to the public by practising below the required standard of competence, you may provide the Registrar of the Council with written notice of your concerns and your reasons for them.

The notification must be in writing to the Registrar and include the reasons why you believe that the nurse may pose a risk of harm to the public by practising below the required standard of competence. You will find the Competence Notification Form in the downloads box on the right of this page.

The Council will inform the nurse of the notification and make further inquiries before deciding if a review of competence is required.

The Council may require the nurse to have his or her competence reviewed. Following that review the nurse may be required to have further education or practise under supervision for a period of time. In serious cases where there is a risk to public safety, the nurse may have his or her registration suspended until he or she completes a competence programme.

Health

If you have concerns about the health of a nurse and have reason to believe that the nurse is unable to perform the functions required for the practice of nursing because of some mental or physical condition (including alcohol or drug abuse), you must notify the Council in writing of your concerns. You will find the Health Notification form in the downloads box on the right of this page.

If you are a nurse with a mental or physical condition and believe that this condition may affect your ability to practise, you are also required to inform the Council. You will also be asked to declare any such condition in your application for a practising certificate. You do not have to declare health conditions that are temporary or do not affect your ability to practise. 

Once a notification has been received the Council will usually require a medical assessment. If the assessment identifies a health concern that may affect practice, the nurse is given the opportunity to meet with a health committee. Conditions such as employer approval, employer reports and monitoring of the health condition may be included in the nurse's scope of practice to enable him or her to practise safely in a supportive place of employment. In serious cases nurses may have their registration suspended until they are well enough to return to practice.

Although the Council’s primary responsibility is public safety, it also has a supportive role, recognising that the nurse may be unwell.

Conduct

Health and Disability Commissioner

Any complaint about the conduct of a nurse where the nurse is providing care and the conduct has affected a health consumer must be referred by the Council to the Health and Disability Commissioner. The Commissioner may decide to investigate the complaint or may refer the complaint back to the Council to investigate. 

Complaints process 

Unlike health and competence, there is no mandatory requirement to make a complaint about a nurse's conduct. However there is an obligation to make a complaint if the nurse’s alleged conduct involves public safety. 

Complaints must be in writing to the Registrar. You will find the Conduct Complaint Form in the downloads box on the right of this page.

Complaints of a serious professional nature are investigated and considered by professional conduct committees (PCCs), who decide whether to refer the complaint to the Health Practitioners Disciplinary Tribunal or whether no further disciplinary action is required. PCCs can also recommend:

  • reviewing a nurse's competence or health
  • including conditions in a nurse's cope of practice
  • sending a letter of counsel (education letter) to the nurse. 

Court convictions

Court registrars are required to send a notice of conviction to the Council when a nurse has been convicted of an offence that is punishable by imprisonment for a term of 3 months or longer, or for other offences listed in the Act. These convictions must be referred to a PCC.

The Council has appointed a PCC to consider these convictions. This PCC meets every 3–4 months to ensure that these convictions are considered in a timely manner.

These nurses are invited to attend a meeting to provide a response to their conviction.

For more information, see the Court Conviction Process document in the downloads box on the right of this page.

Practising without a practising certificate

Nurses who have practised without a practising certificate for a significant period of time and who have failed to provide a reasonable explanation for the lapse may be referred to a PCC.

The Council has appointed a PCC to consider these nurses. This PCC meets every 3–4 months. Nurses are invited to attend a meeting or to provide a written explanation for the lapse.

For more information, see Practising without a Practising Certificate in the downloads box on the right of this page.

Practising outside scope of practice

A PCC has also been appointed to consider nurses who may have practised outside their scope of practice.

Breaching conditions

PCCs may also consider nurses who have failed to comply with any conditions included in their scope of practice. These conditions may have been included following an order of the Health Practitioners Disciplinary Tribunal or the Health Committee.

Health Practitioners Disciplinary Tribunal

Charges against a nurse are brought before the Health Practitioners Disciplinary Tribunal, which is a separate tribunal. The Tribunal's website provides a guide to disciplinary proceedings and summaries of its decisions.

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