Standards and requirements for first Graduate Entry Nursing Education Programme

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Dr. Louise Kavanagh McBride

The Nursing and Midwifery Board of Ireland (NMBI) has launched the first edition of the standards and requirements for education bodies and practice partners to prepare and deliver nursing education programmes at graduate entry level.

The Graduate Entry General Nurse Registration Education Programme Standards and Requirements provide the first education pathway in Ireland for people who already hold a National Framework of Qualifications (NFQ) level 8 undergraduate bachelor’s degree and wish to complete an education programme leading to registration as a general nurse.

Under the Nurses and Midwives Act 2011, as amended, NMBI is mandated to set standards and requirements for education programmes which lead to registration. 

The programme will be delivered over a minimum of two calendar years. The areas for study include:

  • Professional values and nurse conduct competencies
  • Nursing practice and clinical decision-making competencies
  • Knowledge and cognitive competencies
  • Communication and interpersonal competencies
  • Management and team competencies
  • Leadership potential and professional scholarship competencies.

Graduate entry nursing was a recommendation in the Department of Health’s Report of the Expert Review Body on Nursing and Midwifery (2022).

NMBI says it consulted widely with key stakeholders including registrants, relevant heads of nursing and academic curriculum leads, practice partners, and public representative groups over an extended period to develop the standards and requirements for graduate entry nursing.

Dr Louise Kavanagh McBride, President of NMBI, said, “Protecting patients and other members of the public is at the heart of what we do at NMBI. One essential way that we do this as a regulator is through the development and implementation of standards of practice and education. Many people have previously graduated in other areas and later expressed a passion to do nursing. This development offers them a post-graduate pathway to qualify as Registered General Nurses and contribute to our professions and healthcare services currently experiencing staffing shortages. The Board’s approval of these standards and requirements for the commencement of graduate entry nursing education programmes last month is timely, and l look forward to seeing this pathway commence in Autumn 2024.”

Sheila McClelland, CEO of NMBI welcomed the publication saying, A key priority for NMBI, as set out in our new Statement of Strategy 2023-2025, is to review the entry pathways into nursing and midwifery to establish alternative routes. Graduate entry nursing opens up the career to a wider audience at a time when we are experiencing a shortage of workers across the healthcare sector. The purpose of the graduate entry nursing general education programme is to ensure that on completion of the programme the student is equipped with the essential knowledge, values, attitude and skills necessary to be a competent and professional Registered General Nurse.” 

Carolyn Donohoe, Director of Education, Policy and Standards, NMBI, said, This document aims to support education bodies and their practice partners to develop high-quality training and education for graduate entry nursing to ensure quality and safe services to all patients. The document also provides guidance for people considering entering nursing as a graduate on what to expect from the education programme. We look forward to working with our stakeholders to ensure these standards support the training and development of future nurses. We expect the first courses to commence in September 2024 following approval by NMBI.” 

Internationally, graduate entry to nursing has been long established, for example in USA, Australia, New Zealand and UK. 

Graduate entry nursing programmes must comply with EU Directive 2005/36/EC and 2013/55/EU which describe the requirements for the training of general nurses.

Students undertaking the graduate entry nursing general education programmes must:

  • Hold a minimum of a 2:2 in a National Frameworks Qualification (NFQ) level 8 bachelor’s degree, and
  • meet the criteria set by the individual education bodies which may include the following:
    • Recognition of prior learning or portfolio as applicable
    • Interview
    • Two references
    • English language competence.