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Managing Pre-Registration Student Risk: A Professional and Legislative Minefield

Maurice Drake, RGON, MA (Distinction), MCNA(NZ) Associate Head of School - Nursing, School of Health and Community Studies, Unitec New Zealand, Auckland

Gil Stokes, RGN, MA, Cert. Ed, MBA, MCNA(NZ) Project Manager, Faculty of Health Postgraduate Office, Auckland University of Technology, Auckland

Drake, M., & Stokes, G. (2004). Managing preregistration student risk: A professional and legislative minefield. Nursing Praxis in New Zealand, 20(1), 15-27.

Abstract

In New Zealand the prerequisites for nursing registration are a Bachelor degree in nursing and a pass in the final examination conducted by a statutory body, the Nursing Council of New Zealand (NCNZ). Eligibility to sit this examination depends on the nursing school’s assessment of the applicant as a person fit to practise nursing without compromise to public safety. Consequently nurse educators have to comply with both the Nurses Act (1977) and the Education Act (1987). As well several other Acts pertaining to the individual rights of students are relevant. Inevitably this complex legislative context generates tensions. This article reports data from 15 Schools of Nursing surveyed to identify difficulties experienced by nurse educators with respect to entry, progression and programme completion of undergraduate nursing students. Risk assessment, along with a lack of clear policy and procedures were found to be the main problem areas. Difficulties were exacerbated for educators when there were challenges to their professional judgement, either from the NCNZ or from within their own institution. The authors argue for more recognition of the dual role of nurse educators, and greater clarification of the NCNZ role in regulating the student’s programme entry and progression, and ultimate admission to the Register. It is suggested that the recently passed Health Practitioners Competence Assurance Act (2003) provides nursing with an opportunity to address some of these issues.

Key Words: Nurse education, risk assessment, public safety

Introduction

Nurse educators have a responsibility to ensure that students whom they believe could benefit from tertiary nurse education have an opportunity to do so. They are also required by the Nursing Council of New Zealand (NCNZ) to ensure that the graduate is competent to practise in a manner that does not compromise public safety, the latter being NCNZ’s primary objective.

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