The current ongoing competency requirements for nurses may be reviewed to ensure they aren’t ‘unnecessarily burdening’, says retiring Nursing Council chief executive Carolyn Reed.

Reed is retiring this month after 10 years as the chief executive and registrar for the regulation body of the country’s 57,500 nurses. Current Taranaki DHB director of nursing Catherine Byrne and former Council chair will step into the role in March.

Speaking to Nursing Review while reflecting on her decade in the role Reed said the Council was aware of nurses’ frustration at the ongoing competency requirements. (Nursing Review will publish the full interview next week.)

Reed first arrived at the Nursing Council to take up an education role in 2004, the year the Health Practitioners Competence Assurance (HPCA) Act 2003 came in uniting all registered health professions under one act and requiring all health professionals to ensure ongoing competency.

No longer could nurses just send off a cheque in the mail each year to renew their annual practising certificate.  From 2004 onwards nurses have had to declare they are competent and be ready to prove that not only had they completed 60 days of practice in the previous three years but also completed 60 hours of professional development and be ready – if audited – to produce proof they met the Nursing Council competencies for their scope of practice.

District health board and other nurses who are part of a professional development recognition programme (PDRP) are exempt from audit but during the industrial unrest earlier this year many stretched nurses expressed frustration at the amount of out-of-work time they had to commit to keeping up their PDRP and/or ongoing competency portfolio to show proof that they met the Nursing Council competencies.

“We are all very aware that we need to review the competence requirements.  And the Council will get to it,” said Reed. “All of the professions are thinking that.”

She said largely the Act’s public safety requirement – for the Council to ensure nurses are competent and fit to practice – was done by self-declaration that nurses had done the practice hours and professional development. But nurses are also expected to reflect and record each year how they meet the competencies – and this is the area that the Council may review.

“There’s certainly new ways of thinking about how nurses can demonstrate their competency,” said Reed.  She said the Council was watching closely a piece of research work being done in Canada on developing a different way of proving competence.  It was also looking at what the legal professions were doing.

“So we are just keeping our eye broadly out there about what will reassure the public about nurses being competent without unnecessarily burdening them (nurses).”

“I think where my thinking is at the moment is valuing the learning that happens everyday in practice,” said Reed. “You don’t have to go to a conference or do a Nursing Review professional development hour to be learning. I learn every day in my job and I guess we don’t place enough value on that.”


  1. Having recently completed my second PHC Expert PDRP portfolio via the DHB process, I am a little bemused at the idea that the competency requirements are that burdensome. The process was streamlined by the time I completed my second portfolio and now it is very sensible without all the requirements for essays and exemplars etc that plagued the process previously.
    I am not sure what could be removed or reduced that would ensure Nursing Council can uphold its role to protect public safety through professional regulation.

  2. I wonder if all these senior nurses even have a portfolio? In my experience it’s a no. Even those in nursing council? They just seem to be in power but don’t have to ‘prove’ they are competent to practise.


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