Fitness to Practice

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 Downloads at the right of this page, or contact us.

Competence

Nurses are required to meet all the competencies for their scope of practice.

If you 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 be required to notify the Council.

If you are an employer, you must promptly notify the Nursing Council if a nurse resigns or is dismissed from their employment for reasons relating to competence.

If you are a health practitioner and you 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 Council of your concerns.

A notification must be in writing to the Registrar and include the reasons why you believe that the nurse poses a risk of harm to the public. You will find the Concerns about a Nurse Form in the Downloads box on this page.

Health

If you have concerns about the mental or physical health of a nurse (including alcohol or substance use disorders), and you believe that the condition may be affecting the nurse's ability to practise, you may notify the Council in writing of your concerns. Please use the Concern about a Nurse Form in the downloads box on this page. If you want to discuss your concerns further before deciding about completing a form, please call our nurse advisor on (04) 802 0240.
The Council may require the nurse to have a health assessment. If the assessment identifies a health concern that may affect practice, the nurse is given the opportunity to meet with a health committee before any decision about practice is made.

The nurse may have conditions included in their scope of practice (such as employer support and monitoring of the health condition) to enable them 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.

Information about this process is in the Downloads section on this page.

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 to 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 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 scope 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.

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.

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

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.