Required qualifications and competencies
Applicants for registration as a nurse practitioner must complete a Nursing Council accredited master’s degree programme. This comprises a structured programme of taught courses with a clinical focus. This master’s degree will enable students to have sufficient theory and clinical learning to meet the required knowledge, skills and attitudes for the nurse practitioner scope of practice.
Revised education programme standards and competencies for nurse practitioners were introduced in April 2017 following a comprehensive review of the scope of practice and the preparation of nurse practitioners. The changes are designed to ensure a consistent standard of education and clinical learning across nursing programmes and to support readiness for registration when the degree is completed. Nurse practitioner master’s programmes, which include 300 hours of clinical learning, have been broadened to require the development of advanced skills in more than one setting. This increases the ability of nurse practitioners to meet diverse and changing health needs.
All accredited master's degree programmes are now required to include the same programme outcomes as the Postgraduate diploma in registered nurse prescribing for patients with long term and common conditions. Registered nurses who complete the postgraduate diploma may credit it towards a nurse practitioner master’s programme. Both qualifications require the completion of a prescribing practicum. This involves a minimum of 150 hours under the supervision and mentorship of a Designated Authorised Prescriber (DAP) - a senior doctor or nurse practitioner who has agreed to support and assess the nurse. Assessment during the prescribing practicum is against the Competencies for Nurse Prescribers.
The provision of a master’s degree programme for nurse practitioners will be limited to tertiary education providers that offer a Council accredited postgraduate diploma in registered nurse prescribing.
Assessment for registration as a nurse practitioner
Assessment for registration as a nurse practitioner, following completion of a master’s degree, is made by a panel assessment of competence and the presentation of a portfolio.
There is strong support for the Council continuing to play a role in assessment to moderate any differences between programmes. Education programme standards for the nurse practitioner scope of practice have been strengthened to include a summative assessment at the end of the prescribing practicum.
Nurse practitioners: authorised prescribers
Nurse practitioners, with advanced nursing qualifications and experience, are authorised prescribers under the Medicines Act alongside
doctors, dentists, midwives and optometrists. They have the authority
to prescribe any medicines relevant to their areas of practice. They
prescribe within their scope of practice, knowledge and competence.
The Misuse of Drugs Regulations allows nurse practitioners to prescribe controlled drugs within their scope of practice for:
- Up to one months' supply for Class A and B controlled drugs
- Up to three months' supply for Class C controlled drugs.