Difficulty of NHS language test ‘worsens nurse crisis’, say recruiters
Even native English speakers with degrees struggle to pass exams, as number of applicants from EU falls to 46 in April from 1,304 last July
So, does this tell us something about the test being too difficult or about the language skills required to get a degree these days?
The NMC said its English test standards were in line with nursing bodies in other countries and other medical bodies in the UK and had been introduced to safeguard patient safety.
Well, yes, this seems broadly true.
Hayley Purcell wants to fill one of those posts. Born in Adelaide, she has worked as a nurse in South Australia for the last 11 years, her career spanning mental health, intensive care, paediatrics, surgical procedures and orthopaedics. She narrowly failed the written language exam, even though she has a bachelor’s degree in nursing.
Purcell had no problems expressing herself in a phone call from Adelaide. “After being schooled here in Australia my whole life, passing high school with very good scores, including English, then passing university and graduate studies with no issues in English writing – now to ‘fail’ IELTS is baffling,” she told the Observer. “So when I failed I just went numb. Then I got angry. Everything rides on the result.”
IELTS has four elements: speaking, listening, reading and writing. To qualify to work in the NHS, candidates need to score at least seven out of nine in each section. Purcell, who spent AU$650 (£386) on the test, managed 6.5 in writing and seven in reading.
“The essay test was to discuss whether TV was good or bad for children. They’re looking for how you structure the essay,” she said. “I wrote essays all the time when I was doing my bachelor of nursing. I didn’t think I’d have to do another one. I don’t even know why I failed.”
Her case is echoed by Jorja McDonald, a nurse with three years’ experience from Springfield in Queensland, who reached 6.5 in reading and 6.5 in writing despite being a native English speaker.
To get a points based visa (the sort of thing a n urse would get) for Oz requires a score of 7 in that very same test.
Ms. Purcell’s English is not proficient enough to get her into her own country let alone our……