Are you a registered nurse in the Philippines looking to convert your qualification in order to work in Australia? We break down the necessary Australian nursing qualifications and the entire registration process. Here are some key points and information you need to know if you want to become a registered nurse (RN) in Australia.
Nursing in the Philippines
Nursing is one of the most common careers Filipinos pursue, primarily due to its demand worldwide and the financial stability it can provide. In the Philippines, the average annual salary for a registered nurse is PHP 151,000, while Australia offers an average salary of PHP 2.6 million. Because of this, Filipino nurses often consider Australia as one of the top countries to practice in.
However, moving to Australia and working as a registered nurse (RN) may be easier said than done. A Filipino registered nurse must have their qualification recognised as comparable to the Australian standard first, before they are eligible to hold registration and work in their profession in Australia.
The qualifications for registered nurses in Australia
The two most time consuming components of the process are obtaining registration with the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia (NMBA), through the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) and achieving a positive Skills Assessment through the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Accreditation Council (ANMAC).
Which regulatory bodies and acronyms should one be familiar with?
IQNM – Internationally Qualified Nurses and Midwives
This is what you will be classified as, as someone who trained overseas.
AHPRA – Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency
This is the overarching body that oversees numerous national boards, one of which is the NMBA.
ANMAC – Australian Nursing and Midwifery Accreditation Council
This is the assessing body that checks if your skills meet Australia’s standards set for nurses.
OBA – Outcomes Based Assessment
This is composed of the Multiple Choice Questionnaire (MCQ) and an Objective Structured Clinical Examination (OSCE).
IELTS – International English Language Testing System
This is one of the valid English language tests that you need to pass.
PTE – Pearson Test of English
This is also one of the valid English language tests that you need to pass.
APC – Australian Police Check
This is the document that you need to show to comply with the character check requirement. This is Australia’s version of the NBI certificate.
Becoming a registered nurse in Australia: Step one
A good first step for Filipino nurses to take is to take an online self-check on the AHPRA/NMBA portal and apply for registration.
Depending on your circumstances, the portal will notify you whether you meet an Australian-level qualification or will need to upgrade your qualification. You will also then be allocated to a stream.
If you are advised that your qualification is "substantially equivalent" to similar competencies to an Australian approved qualification, you must complete the AHPRA/NMBA IQNM Assessment, followed by Orientation Part 1, which is an online learning course that introduces you to the Australian Healthcare system.
If you are advised that your "qualification is relevant but not substantially equivalent", you must complete the AHPRA/NMBA IQNM Assessment, followed by the Orientation Part 1, followed by providing a portfolio of documents and proof of qualifications, followed by an Outcomes Based Assessment (OBA), which is both a Multiple Choice Questionnaire (MCQ) exam and an Objective Structured Clinical Examination (OSCE).
If you are advised that you "do not hold a relevant qualification" (under section 53 of the National Law) or do not meet the required assessment criteria, you will need to upgrade your qualification before being eligible to apply for registration with AHPRA/NMBA.
The qualification can be upgraded in Australia, through completion of an NMBA approved program of study, or any other country of choice, providing the qualification meets the qualification assessment criteria. The EPIQ-RN Bridging Program has now been replaced by Outcomes Based Assessment (OBA).
For the purpose of this article, we will be focusing on Stream C, which is the most common stream Philippine-trained nurses fall under.
How do I upgrade my qualification?
If you fall under stream C, you will need to complete an approved program of study in Australia or any other country that provides an equivalent qualification.
Do note you will need a referral from the NMBA, which is sent through the AHPRA portal, in order to apply. This is the same portal that you used to do your online self-check.
Students who undertake this program may apply for a business visitor visa, generally granted for three months.
Which Australian schools offer bridging programs?
- Australian Centre of Further Education – Melbourne, VIC
- Australian College of Nursing – Parramatta, NSW
- Central Queensland University Cairns – QLD Noosa, QLD Rockhampton
- Deakin University – VIC
- Education, Training and Employment Australia – Heidelberg VIC, Canningvale WA, Adelaide SA
- Eveleigh – NSW
- Institute of Health and Nursing Australia (IHNA) – VIC
- La Trobe University – Bendigo VIC
- Lonsdale Institute – Myrtleford, VIC
- Monash University – Clayton VIC
- Southern Cross University – NSW and Queensland
- University of South Australia – Adelaide City East
What to do after finishing the program?
After you finish the program, you will be able to register with AHPRA and attend the Online Orientation Part 1, followed by providing a portfolio of documents and proof of qualifications. The next step is to complete an Outcomes Based Assessment (OBA).
What is an OBA?
An OBA has two tests; the first one you must pass is the Multiple Choice Questionnaire (MCQ), followed by the Objective Structured Clinical Examination (OSCE). The MCQ exam is called the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN) and can be taken at various testing centers around the world. The OSCE however, must be taken in Australia.
After you pass these two, you will undergo a skills assessment with ANMAC.
What is the skills assessment for registered nurses?
The skills assessment for nurses is conducted by ANMAC. The purpose of the skills assessment is to check that the applicant’s skills (qualifications and sometimes relevant industry experience) meet the standards set out for the occupation of a Registered Nurse in Australia.
There are various skills assessment pathways, but typically, you will need to prepare the following:
- Evidence of identity (passport, change of name documents (if applicable), and a passport-sized photo)
- Academic qualifications (i.e. Graduation certificate/diploma, licenses, transcript of records) Resume
- English test results (you must get a minimum grade of 7 for IELTS or 65 for PTE)
- Work history (if applicable)
- Australian Police Check (APC)
- Professional references by your direct supervisor who is also a nurse (if applicable)
This template should be used: Download here.
While this process may seem daunting, most people find it worth it in the end, especially because the end result is financially rewarding. It is very common for Filipino nurses to earn a living for themselves and send money to their families in the Philippines.