Nursing Council Refreshes English Language Competence Policy

19 August 2022

The Nursing Council of New Zealand has announced a refresh of its English Language Competence policy, effective as of 12pm 19 August 2022.

This refresh is based on consultation the Council conducted earlier this year about how it assesses and registers internationally qualified nurses. It also takes into account broader feedback the Council has received on its English language policy.

As part of this refresh the Council is setting a new minimum writing score for English language tests. It will now require a score of 6.5 in the IELTS test or 300 in the OET test. Scores for reading, speaking, and listening remain at 7 in IELTS and 350 in the OET.

In addition, the Council is being clearer about how English competence is assessed. This includes acceptable testing methods, and clearly describing when a nurse might be eligible for non-test-based pathways. To make English Language requirements easier to understand, the Council has produced guidance that explains its three evidence pathways and why an English language standard exists.

“Good communication is critical for good and safe nursing,” said Catherine Byrne, Chief Executive and Registrar of the Nursing Council. “Nurses need to communicate with patients and their whānau, nursing colleagues, and members of the whole healthcare team. When they don’t, that can cause suffering, harm, and even death”.

“But it is also important that we don’t create unnecessary barriers to registering nurses, and that our requirements are clear. Today’s refresh makes our standards clearer to international nurses who wish to pursue a career in Aotearoa New Zealand, while ensuring that they have the necessary language skills to practise safely.”

The Nursing Council is required to set English language standards under the Health Practitioners Competence Assurance Act 2003, which is the Council’s governing legislation. This requires the Council to be satisfied that a nurse can communicate at an appropriate level to practise in their scope (section 16(a)), and that the nurse’s “ability to communicate and comprehend English is sufficient to protect the health and safety of the public” (section 16(b)). If the Council is not confident that this is the case, a nurse cannot be registered.

Further detail on this refresh is available on the Council’s homepage for internationally qualified nurse registration at .