English Test Required to Be a Nurse in Australia

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On the surface, new Australian regulations requiring all foreign nurses to pass an English proficiency test before they begin working sound like a great idea. After all, communication breakdowns between nurses and doctors or nurses and patients can have devastating consequences. However, for Gerard Kellett, the testing requirement has proved to be an unnecessary burden.

According to this article, Kellett is a native English speaker who was born in Singapore to English-speaking parents. He is an Australian citizen and has lived in the country for 17 years. However, when Mr. Kellett tried to become a registered nurse after graduating, he received a letter from Australia’s Health Practitioner Regulation Agency which read in part:

“As you have not completed both your secondary education and nursing/midwifery education program in Australia, you are required to demonstrate English language competence. If you are unable to meet AHPRA’s English language requirements within three months . . . your application will be withdrawn.”

Mr. Kellett went to high school in Northern Ireland, which would explain the letter and the testing requirement except for the fact that English is also spoken in Northern Ireland.  Of course, there are differences in the way the language is spoken in each country, but given that Mr. Kellett has been living in Australia for the better part of two decades, surely he’s picked up on those.

Ultimately, Mr. Kellett had to fork over $535 to take the test. Results are not expected in for another 2 months, and until then he can’t work.

Still, his situation is better than that of many newly graduated nurses because he does have Australian citizenship.  According to this article on The Courier website,  foreign nurses who just graduated were not informed of the new requirements in time to allow them to take the test before they graduated. Now, they are stuck in Australia on tourist visas, unable to work at all.