Tohungatanga haere tonu
Continuing Competence

The role of the Nursing Council is to protect the health and safety of the public by setting standards and ensuring that nurses are competent to practise under the Health Practitioners Competence Assurance Act 2003. The Council sets standards for continuing competence, requires an annual declaration of continuing competence from each nurse, and annually selects 5% of practising nurses to complete a recertification audit of the continuing competence requirements under section 41 of the Act. It is the professional responsibility of all practising nurses to maintain their competence to practise. They meet this requirement (and retain evidence of their continuing competence) by:

  • completing 60 days (or 450 hours) of practice in the last 3 years
  • completing 60 hours of professional development in the last 3 years
  • meeting the Council's competencies for their scope of practice

A nurse may demonstrate continuing competence by either completing an approved Professional Development & Recognition Programme (PDRP) or undergoing the Recertification audit.

For nurse practitioners, see Nurse practitioner requirements.

For more information, see the documents in the Downloads box.

Annual declaration

Every time you apply for an annual practising certificate you are asked to declare whether you have met the continuing competence requirements. You answer three questions on whether you meet the practice hours, professional development hours and competencies for your scope of practice. This declaration provides the Nursing Council and the public with assurance that nurses are meeting the continuing competence requirements.

As a nurse you are professionally responsible for meeting these requirements. Your employer may provide you with opportunities for professional development or competence assessment, but is not accountable to the Nursing Council – you are.

It is important that you complete your declaration honestly. If you supply false or misleading information, the Nursing Council can decline to issue you with a practising certificate.

Practice hours

"Practising" is defined as using nursing knowledge in a direct relationship with clients or when working in nursing management, nursing administration, nursing education, nursing research, nursing professional advice or nursing policy development roles that impact on public safety.

For a full explanation of the definition of practising, see About Practising Certificates.

Professional development

The Council and the public expect that all nurses will continue to learn and to maintain their competence. You are responsible for seeking opportunities to do this.

You are required to complete professional development in the context of your area of practice. These activities may be within the work environment or in an educational context. Professional development can include a variety of learning activities such as degree courses, short courses, seminars, conferences, in-service education, professional supervision or online learning and Internet-based courses.

Your professional development may be taken as whole days or as hours.

The level of your professional development should be appropriate to your scope of practice and work context. Your 60 hours of professional development in 3 years should include more professional learning than just the mandatory or core training required by your employer. Some of your professional development must be relevant to your development as a nurse and to your area of practice.

Journal reading may be considered a professional development activity if it takes place within a formal framework such as a journal club, a presentation to colleagues, or to inform an educational or quality improvement process. Meetings may be considered a professional development activity if they have an educational focus and include appropriate documentation (for example, minutes that clearly identify the education topic).

You are also required to reflect on your professional development and may be asked to supply a statement of learning if you are selected for the recertification audit.

You may wish to record your professional development via MyNC on the 'Continuing Competence' tab.

Professional Development Activities Template

Meeting the Nursing Council competencies for your scope of practice

Competence is the combination of skills, knowledge, attitudes, values and abilities that underpin effective performance as a nurse. 

The Nursing Council has developed competencies that describe the skills and knowledge expected of nurses registered in each scope of practice. 

To practise safely, you are expected to meet these competencies. You are expected to reflect each year on whether you meet these competencies, at the time when you make their annual declaration. You will be assessed against these competencies at least every three years. 


Competencies for nurse practitioner scope of practice

Competencies for registered nurses

Competencies for enrolled nurses


What happens if I can't meet the requirements

If you have not met all the continuing competence requirements, your application for a practising certificate will be individually considered.

Insufficient practice hours

If you have not completed 60 days or 450 hours of practice in the last three years, or you last practised between three and five years ago, you may be issued with a practising certificate with a condition that you complete one or more of the following within a stated time:

  • a competency assessment against the Nursing Council competencies
  • an orientation programme. 

Insufficient professional development hours

If you have not completed 60 hours of professional development in the last three years, you may be issued with a practising certificate with a condition to complete professional development hours within a stated time. 

Not met the Council's competencies for your scope of practice

If you indicate you have not met the Council's competencies you will be contacted by a Council staff member to discuss your response and any conditions that may apply.