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About NMBI

The Nursing and Midwifery Board of Ireland (NMBI) is the independent regulator for nurses and midwives. We exist to protect the public. We do this by maintaining the Register of Nurses and Midwives and by upholding the standards of nurses and midwifery in Ireland.

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We evaluate applications from Irish and overseas applicants, we support nurses and midwives in their provision of care with standards and guidance and we set requirements for nursing and midwifery educational programmes. We also investigate complaints and if necessary take action, to protect the public.

Essene Cassidy is our President and Sheila McClelland joined us as CEO in June 2019.
April 08, 2020
  • Review that began before COVID-19 will prove beneficial in its application now, supporting further nurses and midwives to enter the Irish system 

  • New protocols better support nursing and midwifery communication requirements – half point decrease (7 to 6.5) in writing score supports registration for many suitable candidates
  •  New protocols apply to those who have taken the language test in the last two years
  • NMBI review aligns Ireland’s language test requirements for registration with similar healthcare professions worldwide
The Nursing and Midwifery Board of Ireland (NMBI) today announced that it would immediately apply amendments to its International English Language Testing System (IELTS) and the Occupational English Test (OET) requirements for nurses and midwives who did not complete their qualifications through English. These amendments, which are the result of a review that began in 2019, better relate to requirements for day to day practice while ensuring that the appropriate standard of English language is still achieved. They also bring Ireland in line with other international health regulators who have also recently reviewed language standards.

We have reviewed a number of approaches and protocols at NMBI over the last 12 months and I am delighted that the language review which has now been approved by the Board could benefit many nurses and midwives of quality who want to register to support the fight against COVID-19,’ said Sheila McClelland, CEO NMBI. ‘We have decreased the writing score by 0.5 and believe that the application of this will not compromise practice. There is evidence in the UK and further afield that our amendments will provide a positive result.

In consultation with our stakeholders across the sector, we intend to review these changes in protocol in 12 months’ time and based on this we will maintain our approach or revert to previous standards. Our objective is to always review best practice and the experience of those who implement it. We also believe in reviewing protocols as appropriate and within reasonable timeframes,’ continued McClelland.

Under the previous system applicants were required to achieve the IELTS Academic Test Level 6.5 in reading and listening, and a 7 in writing and speaking, in a single sitting. Under the new protocols the NMBI requires scores of 7 in listening, reading, and speaking but a 6.5 in writing. Regardless of the recent amendments, the overall IELTS required score of 7 remains. We believe that the decrease in writing level from 7 to 6.5 will enable suitably qualified nurses and midwives to enter the Irish system. OET score requirements reflect a similar decrease in the writing requirement (please see tables in notes).

IELTS and OET are well-established and internationally recognised methods of testing English language ability and are used by many healthcare regulators in English-speaking countries. IELTS and OET scores that NMBI will implement from today are achieving positive feedback among our peers in the UK and internationally.

Notes to editors:

Language requirements

Some common questions:

1. Who does the language test apply to?
Proof of language competency applies to all applicants for registration with the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Ireland who have qualifications from outside of Ireland to confirm they have the necessary knowledge of English to communicate effectively in their practice.
Those who trained through the medium of English in Ireland, UK, US, Australia, New Zealand and Canada are exempt from providing evidence of language competence.
Please note that there is no change to the types of applicant who are subject to language test requirements. The language test requirement applies to all applicants either via the EU/EEA route and overseas route. 
2. If I do not qualify for an exemption do I need to do a language test and achieve required scores to register?

3. Can I combine the results of a number of tests to achieve the required result?

Your language test scores must be achieved in a single sitting. This means that an applicant cannot combine the results of two or more tests to meet the results above.
4. Do I have to achieve the required individual score for each subset/component?
There is some flexibility in the scores listed above. An applicant may achieve 6.5 or grade C+ in any one of the four subtests/components other than in the writing subtest/component where 6.5 or C+ is the lowest score acceptable.

5. When do these new protocols come into practice?

6. Can I benefit from these new protocols if I did my test a year ago?

Both language test scores (IELTS and OET) are valid for two years. We can apply these new protocols to an IELTS or OET test result.  Those who previously applied for registration who were deemed ineligible on the basis of not meeting the language requirements can be considered under the revised requirements. 
7. Who verifies my test result?

The NMBI verifies all language test score results directly with the test provider. 
8. Can I choose which protocols I want to be evaluated against (old or new)?

Those who applied for registration prior to April 10, 2020 will be considered to have met the language requirements for registration if they meet the previous language requirements dated April 02, 2018 or the new requirements we announced in April, 2020.

All applications received after Monday April 13, 2020 will be considered solely under the new requirements specified above.

9. When was this review of language requirements for the Irish register conducted, did you do it in response to COIVD-19?

It is good practice to regularly review all our protocols.  Our language requirements were last reviewed in 2018 and it was agreed at this point that we would review them again in 12 months. The amendments that we are putting in place in April 2020 are the result of research conducted during 2019. We are in the fortunate position of being able to apply them now when they could benefit more nurses and midwives of quality entering the system.

10. How was the review conducted?

During 2019, NMBI undertook a review of international research and also considered recent amendments made by other similar professional regulators in Ireland and overseas, including the Nursing and Midwifery Council in the UK.

11. Will you monitor these amendments and could they change again?

We have agreed with all stakeholders that there will be a review of these new amendments in 12 months. If we agree collectively that the amendments are positive we will maintain them, if however there is evidence that the amendments have compromised practice we will initiate a comprehensive review that may result in further changes.
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