The Nursing and Midwifery Board’s (NMBA) professional standards are guidelines for all nurses and midwives to practise within Australia.
A part of the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency, which handles the registration of more than 800,000 health professionals across the country, the NMBA is the board within the Agency that oversees the guidelines that govern how nurses and midwives practise.
According to the NMBA, the professional standards, an “evidence-based” set of guidelines, aim to “ensure the same standard of professional care in any setting across the country”.
The ANMJ spoke to the NMBA about the Standards, why they are crucial and how they impact the Australian nursing and midwifery workforce.
ANMJ: What are the Nursing and Midwifery Professional Standards, and how did they come into effect in Australia?
NMBA: The professional standards for registered nurses, enrolled nurses, nurse practitioners and midwives in Australia help to ensure the same standard of professional care in any setting across the country. They outline the expected behaviours of Australian nurses and midwives to be registered with the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia (NMBA).
The practice of a nurse or a midwife in Australia is shaped and guided by their:
- Codes of conduct;
- Standards for practice; and
- Codes of ethics.
Codes of conduct
The codes set out the legal requirements, professional behaviour and conduct expectations for all nurses and midwives, in all practice settings, in Australia. They describe the principles of professional behaviour that guide safe practice and outline specific standards which all nurses and midwives are expected to adopt in their practice.
Key things that nurses and midwives can look for guidance on in the codes include:
- Professional boundaries – what kind of relationships are appropriate with people in my care?
- Cultural safety – how can I contribute to safe healthcare for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people?
Standards for practice
The standards for practice provide a framework for nursing or midwifery practice in all contexts. They are evidence-based and tested through observations of nursing and midwifery practice in various locations and settings.
They inform people receiving care from a nurse or midwife about what to expect from the profession.
The standards for practice cover things like accountability, delegation and supervision.
Codes of ethics
The codes of ethics for nurses and midwives are statements of the ethical values, responsibilities and professional accountabilities of each practitioner and student of the profession. The International Council of Nurses/International Confederation of Midwives developed codes of ethics that are applied worldwide.
ANMJ: How do the codes of conduct, the standards for practice and the codes of ethics complement each other to form a baseline for acceptable professional conduct within an Australian healthcare context?
The codes of conduct, standards for practice, codes of ethics and the NMBA registration standards and guidelines build a professional practice framework to support nurses and/or midwives practising safely and competently.
It’s the combination of clinical expertise, shared ethical values and regulatory accountability that helps improve professional and safe practice of nurses and midwives in Australia.
ANMJ: How are these standards and codes determined? Who is responsible for deciding them?
NMBA: The NMBA consults widely with the professions and the community when standards and codes come up for review. They’re developed through:
- Literature and evidence reviews;
- Surveys and interviews with the professions;
- Clinical observations; and
- Expert working groups.
ANMJ: How frequently are they reviewed and updated?
NMBA: These professional standards are reviewed and updated at least every five years.
ANMJ: How should professional standards be distinguished from the registration standards?
NMBA: The registration standards define the minimum requirements that applicants need to meet to be registered in Australia.
There are five mandatory registration standards: criminal history, English language skills, continuing professional development, recency of practice and professional indemnity insurance. Each year, when they renew their registration, nurses and midwives are asked to confirm that they have met the NMBA registration standards.
Professional standards set the standards for practice, conduct and behaviours for every nurse and midwife in Australia.
The registration and professional standards together provide the framework for practice of nurses and midwives in Australia.
ANMJ: Who is the best contact within the NMBA/AHPRA if a nurse or midwife has any queries relating to the professional standards?
NMBA: Nurses and midwives can stay in touch with the standards of their professions through the NMBA website and regular e-newsletters. Policy queries can be sent to email@example.com
More information on the NMBA’s Professional Standards can be found here.