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Competent or incompetent?

I was pleased to learn that enrolled nurses (ENs) are now to undergo a competence assessment as part of a professional development recognition programme, but am now slightly bemused as to my own competence!

As a registered nurse (RN) myself, I:

* have been in continuous practice for 40 years;

* have been a nurse manager (in aged care) for 20 years, a position I still hold;

* hold a post-graduate certificate in care of the older adult;

* hold two post-graduate certificates in management for health professionals;

* hold a certificate in Mauri Ora;

* manage a 123-bed, long-term care facility which encompasses hospital, rest-home and dementia care;

* manage 82 employees (10 RNs, four ENs and 50 caregivers), and

* am responsible for conducting annual appraisals for all staff, including assessing the competence of the RNs.

However, I do not meet the criteria for assessing the competence of the ENs employed by me, as I do not have one of the following:

* an adult teaching certificate or diploma;

* experience as a nurse lecturer;

* evidence of undertaking a preceptor programme or clinical teaching programme;

* New Zealand Qualifications Authority workplace assessor training;

* or can demonstrate equivalency of any of the above.

I am appalled that an assessor for ENs must meet such strict criteria when my own appraisal can be assessed by another RN.

The four ENs I employ are mature, astute nurses who deliver a high standard of care to our older, frail adults and I am more than confident to assess their competencies to ensure they meet the Nursing Council requirements--but apparently not!

Enrolled nurses fill a valuable part of our nursing structure and the new requirements seem to demean them, when an experienced and practising RN such as myself cannot complete a competence assessment with them, considering they must work under the direction and delegation of RNs.

Who exactly is under the microscope--them or us!

Melva Nicholson, RH, Auckland

Nursing Council chief executive Carolyn Reed replies: Ensuring competence is a requirement of the Health Practitioners Competence Assurance Act (2003). The Council has a responsibility to the New Zealand public to provide assurance that nurses are competent and safe to practise nursing and thus needs to be satisfied that nurses undertaking assessments of competence against the new enrolled nurse competencies have the appropriate skill and knowledge.

The Council has provided guidance for the type of skill and knowledge that would prepare a registered nurse for this role. The final bullet point--"or can demonstrate equivalency of any of the above"--is designed to enable nurses who have experience, such as that described by Ms Nicholson, to apply to become a council-approved assessor. Nurses interested in applying should email, for further information and an application form.

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Author:Nicholson, Melva
Publication:Kai Tiaki: Nursing New Zealand
Article Type:Letter to the editor
Date:Jul 1, 2010
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