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Southern Cross University supports student nurses following government announcement


Jessica Nelson
20 March 2020
Gold Coast campus

Southern Cross University is supporting international student nurses who may be called upon to join the health work force to respond to COVID-19.

To cope with looming pressures on Australia’s healthcare system, the federal government this week announced it will relax international student nurse visa work conditions to provide workforce continuity for aged care facilities, home care providers and other health care workers.

There are currently around 20,000 international student nurses studying in Australia. These changes will allow international student nurses and other aged care workers to work more than their current 40 hours a fortnight.

Acting Head of the School of Health and Human Sciences Professor Wendy Gilleard said while there are no changes to current registration requirements, but rather international nurse working restrictions, Southern Cross University has been working with relevant accreditation and registration bodies to fast-track current international and domestic student nurse registrations.

The University currently offers the Graduate Certificate of Australian Nursing, also known as the Education Program for Internationally Qualified Nurses (EPIQ), which is designed for internationally qualified registered nurses who wish to practise as a registered nurse in Australia.

The on-campus EPIQ program is now offering the theoretical component completely online, with 76 students in their final fortnight of clinical placement who will then be eligible for registration and work-ready. More than half of the internationally-qualified nurses who are enrolled in the April cohort are already onshore and will begin the 15-week course online as planned, with additional places still available for onshore internationally accredited nurses to qualify for Australian working registration.

Professor Gilleard said 270 internationally accredited nurses went through the program in 2019 with 70 per cent now working in the Australian healthcare system, while 30 per cent returned to their home countries with the additional qualification.

Undergraduate nursing students may have registration fast-tracked

Final year undergraduate nursing students may also have their registration fast-tracked with the University currently in talks with local hospitals to prioritise clinical placement hours for third-year students to ensure they can meet registration requirements as soon as possible.

“We are supporting these students who may experience front line COVID-19 response while on their current clinical placements and during their nursing degrees, unprecedented challenging times,” Professor Gilleard said.

“We are also in talks with the registration bodies to discuss the possibility of student nurses being supervised by teams of nurses rather than individual nurses while on placement, and also whether registered nurses working at the University may be required to join the work force to supervise students on placement – if so our team is ready to help.”

While Southern Cross University campuses remain open, the theoretical components of all courses, including the theoretical components of the Bachelor of Nursing, will be offered only online from 23 March 2020.