International Health Humanities Network Impact Reports and Narrative

Migrant Nurses and Language in Australia

Short Description

The aim of this project is to understand the scope and scale of problems facing migrant nurses in meeting the English standards for registration in Australia.


Findings may be used to improve the registration process of migrant nurses in the design of more effective, professionally directed methods of English language testing and education.


This will contribute to an improvement in the experience of gaining registration for NESB nurses as well as being more effectively language-ready upon gaining employment post-registration and the reduction of the economic, social and personal difficulties faced by NESB nurses.


The findings could also inform other health professions encountering similar issues with their English testing processes for migrants.


Full Impact Narrative

The role of nursing and midwifery registering authorities is to protect public safety by establishing policies for the regulation of the profession. Therefore the purpose of English language testing is to evaluate the effectiveness of communicating in a nursing setting. Many international nurse registering authorities have demonstrated concerns regarding English language testing, indicating this is a universal problem. However, research suggests a potential mismatch between linguistic criteria assessed by language professionals and clinical communication deemed relevant by health professionals (O'Hagan et al. 2011; Jacoby & McNamara 1999). Kingma (2001 p.212) states that ‘language was reported to be a significant barrier to nurse migration’ in the international recruitment of nurses to fill nursing shortages in the UK, USA and Australia (Kingma 2001). The English language testing process has been identified as one of the barriers to registration for NESB nurses in Australia (Hawthorne 2001) as well as in Canada (Kolawole 2009) and New Zealand (Walker 2009).

There is a need for increased knowledge and understanding of the issue of English language testing requirements for registration of NESB nurses and their experiences as professionals subjected to this process. There have been several qualitative studies conducted outlining areas of concern however this study investigates whether these claims are backed up quantitatively with facts and figures related to: how many times on average a nurse sits the tests; which test is more indicative of successful registration; and whether there are many examples of test scores fluctuating between sittings. The opinion will also be sought of registered nurses who have successfully gained registration in Australia as to how relevant the English language assessed in these tests is to actual effective workplace communication

There is no evidence that any similar studies have been conducted to date even though this issue has become an increasingly important focus of research over the last 20 years (Hawthorne 2001; Deegan &Simkin 2010). These results may contribute to improvements in English language testing requirements through more effective and directed research and consultation in determining appropriate English language requirements. The findings may also contribute to an improvement in the experience of gaining registration for NESB nurses as well as being more effectively language-ready upon gaining employment.

Contact Information Investigating the experience of NESB nurses in attempting to meet the English language requirements for registration in Australia

Humanities Subjects

Health Care Areas

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