If you are an international nurse who aspires to work and live in Australia permanently,
the first step in the journey is to register with AHPRA. Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) and Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia (NMBA) are the governing bodies responsible for assessing the qualifications of Internationally Qualified Nurses and Midwives.
Since 1st October 2019, the OBA (Outcome-Based Assessment) has replaced the IRON program which used to be the bridge program for international nurses who wish to practice in Australia.
OBA is a multi-stage assessment for overseas nurses and midwives that checks if they possess sufficient knowledge, qualifications, and skills to work in Australia.
What is OBA?
The OBA (Outcome-Based Assessment) is a two-step assessment process comprising an MCQ test (NCLEX) followed by the Objective Structured Clinical Examination (OSCE) that respectively tests a candidate’s cognitive and behavioral capabilities to work as a nurse or a midwife in Australia.
What are the stages involved in OBA?
If you are an overseas nurse or midwife, here is the process flow for you to register yourself as an RN (Registered Nurse) in Australia.
Self-check is a simple step in which you enter your educational qualification details on AHPRA’s self-check portal and find out which of the three streams of candidates you belong to. Based on the information you submit, the system assigns you a stream in the IQNM portal.
Stream A: If you are assigned stream A, it essentially means your overseas qualifications are on par with that of Australian Quality Framework level 7 for nursing education. Hence you will be instructed to directly apply for registration after completing the orientation (Part 1 ), which is an online learning course about the Australian healthcare context.
Stream B: If you fall in stream B, you need to complete the orientation program (Part 1 ) and submit your identification documents, criminal records, educational qualification, and work experience documents. AHPRA will assess these documents and assign you to one of the three streams again. If you fall in stream B again, you will be asked to take up the OBA exam after the orientation.
Stream C: Candidates who are assigned this stream need to study and gain more qualifications that can lead them to registration in Australia in the future.
Candidates in the stream A and B need to complete the orientation program by paying $640. It is a completely online process conducted in two parts.
Part A: This part introduces Australia and its healthcare system to the candidates. (This has to be completed before registration and within 90 days after creating the IQNM account with AHPRA for self-check).
Part B: This part should be completed within 6 months after a successful registration as an RN with NMBA. Here, you will learn the Australian healthcare system in-depth.
Stream B candidates who have successfully completed self-check, portfolio, and orientation, should take the OBA exam.
The Outcome-Based Assessment (OBA) has two levels of assessment: NCLEX and OSCE.
NCLEX exam (online MCQ test)
You can log into your IQNM account and apply for this test via the link provided in the dashboard. You can take this online exam from outside Australia. The fee for this test is $350.
After your application, the IQNM team and ARPHA verifies your details and issues ATT (Authorization to Test) on successful verification of the information you provide.
An ATT is valid for only 90 days and so you need to take the NCLEX test within this timeframe.
NCLEX-RN exam assesses your professional knowledge by administering questions from multiple areas of your study and in different formats (MCQ, audio, charts, fill-in-the-blank, calculations, graphics, etc).
Unlike traditional exams, NCLEX does not have a set number of questions or test duration. The Computerized Adaptive Testing (CAT) system keeps administering questions until it arrives at a 95% confidence level that the candidate is either passing or failing the exam. So, the test duration varies for each test taker. The maximum duration of this test is 5 hours.
The results usually take up to 6 weeks to reach you and they will be communicated via email also.
If you pass this exam, you will be directed to move to the next test which is OSCE- RN. The application process for OSCE will appear on the IQNM dashboard for the candidates who clear the NCLEX test.
Objective Structured Clinical Exam (OSCE) is a behavioral assessment that assesses your capabilities to plan and take care of a patient’s health holistically. It tests your practical skills in handling patients along with your communication skills.
This test is delivered only at the Adelaide Health Simulation Centre in Adelaide, Australia which is a state-of-the-art facility built solely for this purpose. The fee for the OSCE examination is $4000 and you need to fly to Australia under one of the appropriate visas to attend the exam. All travel and accommodation expenses are to be borne by you.
The simulation center has 10 stations, each of which has a simulated patient (mannequins) and you will be asked to demonstrate a particular clinical skill or activity on the patient at each station.
You will be assessed based on the plan you formulate for each patient at each station based on the patient’s situation, communication skills, and abilities, and disabilities. You need to factor in all these parameters and formulate a plan for the patient and demonstrate your skills.
OSCE assesses your practical skills that may include and not limited to the following areas:
- Vital signs
- Physiological observations
- Calculating drug dosages
- Subcutaneous/Intramuscular injections
- Safe disposal of sharps
- Aseptic Non touch Technique
- In hospital resuscitation
- Medication administration
- Hand hygiene
- Wound care
- Infection control practices
- Patient identification
- Therapeutic patient consent
- Risk management
The test center has 10 stations at each of which you will spend 10 minutes performing your task. The ten-minute period is divided into two sections: 2 minutes of reading time followed by 8 minutes of performance time. So, the entire test could go from 3 to 3.5 hours.
The results of OSCE will be communicated to you within 6 weeks
On successful completion of OSCE, you can proceed to register as a Registered Nurse with NMBA.
AHPRA and NMBA take up to 10 weeks to process your application and communicate their verdict on your registration application.
What’s after receiving registration?
If you successfully obtain NMBA registration, the next step is to apply for a visa to immigrate to Australia. ANMAC (Australian Nursing & Midwifery Accreditation Council) is the skill assessment authority for international nurses for migration and visa purposes. So, do check if you meet the requirements set by ANMAC before applying for a visa.
It is important to note that NMBA registration and ANMAC skill assessment are two different processes with different objectives. Therefore, success in one doesn’t guarantee success in the other. Hence it is strongly recommended to take expert help in applying for both these assessments to move to Australia and work as a Registered Nurse.