A new Nursing and Midwifery Council competence test centre for overseas nurses who want to work in the UK has opened in Northern Ireland.
The new purpose-built, designated centre is located at Ulster University’s Magee campus, which is home to its school of nursing.
“We recognise the invaluable contribution that nurses educated outside the EU and EEA make”
It will deliver the objective, structured clinical examination (OSCE), which tests applicants’ skills, knowledge and behaviours in a simulated practice environment.
The test centre at Ulster University is one of just three in the UK and the only such facility in Northern Ireland. It joins those in Oxford Brookes University and University of Northampton.
All registered nurses from countries not in the European Union or European Economic Area who are recruited directly by trusts are required to go through one of the centres before they can practise.
The new test centre, which has the potential to test 45 candidates per week, will allow a greater choice of location and shorter waiting times for those wanting to sit the test, said the university.
As well as the NHS, it will also serve the independent sector in enabling overseas nurses recruited to work in the nursing home sector to undertake the OSCE in Northern Ireland, noted the university.
“We are delighted that Ulster University is one of just three universities in the UK selected to offer such a vital service”
It added that, with no current waiting list, “much-needed” overseas nurses could come through the test centre immediately and be “all promptly allocated to clinical practice and patient care”.
Speaking at the opening of the new centre, chief nursing officer for Northern Ireland Professor Charlotte McArdle said: “We are actively addressing the nursing staffing issue on a number of levels, including the recruitment of 622 overseas nurses by 2020.
“The new Nursing and Midwifery Council competence test centre at Ulster University will ensure that any oversees nurses who apply to work within the trusts each year have gained professional registration and that they are fit to practice in the UK at the required standard,” she said.
“We recognise the invaluable contribution that nurses educated outside the EU and EEA make and the key role they play in the UK’s health and care workforce, but it is vital that they possess the correct skills and qualifications required,” she added.
Professor Carol Curran, executive dean of the university’s faculty of life and health sciences, said: “We are delighted that Ulster University is one of just three universities in the UK selected to offer such a vital service.
“This new test centre demonstrates the commitment of the university and the department to strengthening and enhancing the healthcare workforce,” she said. “The centre builds on our delivery of our nursing education provision and stratified medicine in the city.”
“The current project to recruit overseas nurses for the HSC follows a regional approach”
The centre was also welcomed by Lynn Fee, international recruitment nursing lead for Northern Ireland’s Health and Social Care (HSC) service and also assistant director of nursing at Southern Health and Social Care Trust.
She said: “The new test centre in Ulster University’s Magee campus is vital to ensure that the nurses educated outside the EU and EEA who wish to join our register can sit the test in a timely way, assisting overall in the direct intervention of healthcare workforce challenges in Northern Ireland.
“The current project to recruit overseas nurses for the HSC follows a regional approach,” she said, adding that nurses who passed through the test centre were then placed into the “points of greatest need within the healthcare system to best serve our community”.
Nurses and midwives registered outside of the EU/EEA are required to successfully take a two-part test of competence before they can practise in the UK.
The first part of the test is computer-based and can be taken anywhere in the world. If successful, applicants can then take the OSCE at a UK test centre.