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Are you able to prove your competence? The coming year marks the start of the Nursing Council's random audits of nurses' competence to practise. If your name is one of those chosen at random, would you be able to prove your competence? Here's how you can.

The primary purpose of the Health Practitioners' Competence Assurance Act is to protect public safety. The Act provides mechanisms to ensure health practitioners are competent to practise in their chosen profession. This last year has seen all nurses complete new applications for annual practising certificates (APE). These applications include a self declaration relating to hours of nursing practice completed in New Zealand over the last three years; hours of professional development completed over the last three years; that the applicant meets the Nursing Council's competencies for their scope of practice; a declaration of any mental and/or physical conditions that mean the applicant is unable to perform the functions required for nursing; and a declaration of whether the applicant is subject to an investigation, disciplinary or criminal proceedings or a disciplinary order in New Zealand or any other country. The Nursing Council's Continuing Competency Framework (1) provides the mechanism to monitor nurses' continuing competency, both through the application process for APCs and through audit. The coming year will see the beginning of this audit process, with five percent of nurses being randomly selected for audit each year. The random selection will occur at each period of APC application.

Evidence needed

Nurses who are selected for an audit writ need to provide the following: evidence of practice hours (a minimum of 60 days or 450 hours in the Last three years); evidence of professional development hours; and two of the following methods of assessment of practice against the competencies: self assessment--senior nurse assessment or performance appraisal; peer re view or evidence of involvement in peer review activities. (2)

All evidence will need to be verified by someone who can confirm its accuracy.

Preparation for a random audit will help nurses feel confident if they are selected for audit. Practice hours may be provided by a letter signed by the employer or human resources department. Nurses may need to consider collecting this information from previous employers and it writ be important to keep this information for future reference.

Nursing Council's definition of nursing practice is: All nurses who are working in a capacity for which a nursing qualification is required in order to practise in direct relationship with clients or in nursing management and administration, nursing education, nursing research or nursing professional advice or policy development require practicing certificates. (2)

To practise safely and competently, nurses must comply with professional standards, base their practice on relevant evidence, adhere to the Council's Code of Conduct for Nurses (3) and continually acquire new skills and knowledge in their area of practice. Continuous teaming requires nurses to reflect on their expertise in relation to the changes occurring in society and in the health care environment and, as a result of that reflection, take action to acquire appropriate new knowledge and skills.

Professional development can include degree papers, short courses, seminars, conferences or in-service education. Nurses must provide evidence of professional development undertaken and the corresponding hours. A template can be downloaded from the Council's website http:/ / to record professional development. If a certificate of attendance can't be provided, then nurses must ensure they have their attendance verified. A practical understanding of the competencies relevant to their scope of practice is essential so nurses can provide clear evidence of meeting these competencies. All competencies for nurse assistant/enrolled nurse, registered nurse and nurse practitioner are available on the Council's website

Self assessment

A self assessment can include a reflection on a nurses's work against these competencies or a reflection on the material within a nurses's professional portfolio. Self assessment templates can be downloaded from NZNO's website, in the professional portfolio section. This can be adapted for the senior nurse assessment or for recording the outcomes of a peer review.

A peer review activity has been defined by the Council as "an activity that occurs with one or more peers who review aspects of a nurse's practice, e.g. review of care plans/record, observation of practice or discussion about a practice issue. It will include feedback about the nurse's performance." (1)

The HPCA Act enables the Council to place restrictions on practice or supply an interim certificate until competence requirements are met. The Council's website provides further information about what actions/decisions Nursing Council may require or make a nurse does not meet the audit requirements. Such actions/decisions include recommendations on how to meet the relevant competencies and are designed to ensure patient safety and a competent nursing workforce.

Preparing a professional portfolio, either for personal or professional use, involves collection, organisation, reflection and presentation. Working through the above steps and bringing them all together in an organised manner will facilitate a nurse's ability to retrieve the evidence required, should competence need to be demonstrated through the Council's random audit process.

* NZNO has professional portfolio templates and guidelines for purchase. To order, please contact office administrator, Aretha Wahanui, 04 494 6391 or email


(1) Retrieved 24/11/2005.

(2) Nursing Council of New Zealand (2004) November News Update.

(3) Nursing Council of New Zealand (2005) Code of Conduct for Nurses. Wellington: The Author.
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Article Details
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Author:Dawbin, Angela
Publication:Kai Tiaki: Nursing New Zealand
Geographic Code:8NEWZ
Date:Dec 1, 2005
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