Clinical Hours Consultation 2022

Please note that our consultation has closed. 
Thank you for sharing your views with us. We are currently working through the feedback we have received, and will provide updates soon.
Please note that these changes will take time to fully consider, confirm and implement. If you would like to register with us, please proceed with your application as normal. We have some information available here (click to follow link) or please reach out to the team at [email protected] if you have any questions. Thank you.

We are seeking your views

Ngā mihi nui ki a koutou katoa.

The Nursing Council is currently consulting on possible changes to the minimum number of clinical hours required in Registered Nurse education programmes. We have developed three options: maintaining the status quo, reducing the number of hours, or allowing some hours to be achieved through approved simulation.

We have prepared a consultation document that outlines our proposals and the background to them. You can download this below.

In developing our proposals we undertook a background review of relevant academic literature and requirements in other jurisdictions. You can download this below.

What are the Council’s current clinical hours requirements?

Our clinical hour requirements are set down in our education standards for Registered Nurse programmes. The Council currently requires students to complete a minimum of 1,100 clinical hours across the three years of a Bachelor of Nursing (or equivalent post-graduate programme). There is flexibility as to when these hours are scheduled across the first two years of the Bachelor of Nursing Programme. Under the Nursing Council’s new education standards, coming into effect from 2023, in the third year there is a requirement for 150 clinical hours in semester 1 and 360 Clinical Hours in semester 2. All hours must be completed in ‘real’ clinical settings; simulated environments cannot count towards clinical hours.

The Council is not proposing any changes to minimum clinical practice hours in Enrolled Nurse programmes. The education standards for these programmes – including practice hours – will be considered during the Council’s current review of the Enrolled Nurse Scope. Enrolled Nurse programmes currently must include a minimum of 900 practice hours, of which 200 may be completed through simulation.

All of the Council’s hour requirements are minimums, and education providers may choose to include more clinical hours as part of designing their particular programme.

Why is the Council consulting on a possible change?

When we consulted on changes to the Registered Nurse education standards in 2020, there was strong opposition from the sector to changing the number of clinical hours we required. However, we are aware that views in the sector may have changed in recent years, and have received requests to revisit this issue.

The clinical hours in a nursing education programme are important for understanding what nursing practice is like in an authentic ‘real world’ context. They give students the opportunity to actively apply their skills and knowledge, learn from practitioners in a safe and structured way, and expose students to a range of nursing environments and contexts.

However, we are also aware that simulated learning techniques have become significantly more advanced over recent years, and many education organisations have invested in sophisticated simulated suites. This is recognised in our Enrolled Nurse education standards. Furthermore, academic literature tends to emphasise the quality and outcomes of learning experiences, rather than focusing purely on the number of hours involved. And while our education standards will always concentrate on ensuring programme design and delivery leads to competent nurses, we are aware of current pressures and competition for placement time.

Given all these factors, we believe it is appropriate for the Council to consult specifically on the clinical hours element of our education standards.

What is the Council consulting on?

We have identified three options for consultation. Under each of these proposals, our current requirements regarding clinical hours in the third year of practice (150 hours in trimester one and 360 hours in trimester two) will not change. These are necessary to maximise student nurses’ exposure to the clinical environment in their final year and transition to practice.

Option One: Retain the existing clinical hour requirements
Under this proposal, there would be no change to our education standards. Students would be required to complete a minimum of 1,100 clinical hours over the course of their programme.

Option Two: Reduce the existing clinical hour requirements
Under this proposal, we would change our education standards to require a minimum of 900 hours over the three years of the programme. Please note that individual programmes and providers could continue to offer more than 900 hours if they wished.

Option Three: Allow some hours to be completed through simulation
Under this proposal, we would retain our minimum requirement of 1,100 hours over the three years of the programme. However, a total of 200 hours over the first and second year could be completed through learning in an approved simulated clinical environment rather than in an active workplace. Please note that under this proposal:

  • Simulation could not be used for the required clinical hours in the third year (or equivalent).
  • The 200 hours would apply as a total over the first and second years (e.g. 100 hours in the first year and 100 hours in the second year). This option does not mean 200 hours would be permitted in each year.

How do I provide feedback on these proposals?

We value your views on these proposals, including perspectives based in both education and clinical settings, and views from current students and recent graduates.

Consultation on these options is currently open, and will close at 5pm on Monday 31 October.

We have prepared a short questionnaire to help people provide feedback, which you can complete by following this link.

We also welcome written submissions, especially if you are submitting on behalf of an organisation. These can be submitted to [email protected]. If you would prefer that the content of your submission remains confidential, please state that in your submission.

If you have any questions about the consultation or the options we have put forward, please contact us on [email protected].