Each country has its own regulatory regime applicable to healthcare. Whilst experienced Nurses may be experts in their home country, differences between healthcare systems often necessitate programs of study to facilitate transition. In Australia, these are mandatory for Nurses from some countries. The Initial Registration for Overseas Registered Nurses (IRON) is a bridging program, also known as an Entry to Practice for Internationally Qualified Nurses (EPIQ) program, which allows experienced overseas qualified Nurses from selected countries to apply for registration in Australia with the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA).
This course ensures that students merge previous Nursing experience, skills and life experience with contemporary evidence based theoretical and practical Nursing education. It addresses specific theoretical knowledge and practical skills that are required to work as a Registered Nurse in Australia, assessing and adding to what they have learned whilst studying Nursing in their home country and subsequently consolidated through their clinical practice. This program helps them to understand the local laws, regulations and healthcare practices in Australia, ensures they can nurse safely.
To register as an RN in Australia, overseas qualified nurses should first apply to AHPRA for a letter of eligibility. Nurses from certain countries may not require a bridging program such as the IRON program and may register directly, but nurses from other countries such as India and China are usually required by AHPRA to undertake the program first, well as providing evidence of meeting AHPRA’s requirements in terms of experience and English language proficiency.
Nurses who successfully gain registration after completing the IRON program have a unique role in the Australian healthcare system. Their role is not to compete with Australian nursing graduates, but to back fill positions that require more experienced nurses. Their skills are already honed through their clinical experience in their home country and often in other overseas countries as well. Their international exposure brings new ideas and helps the Australian healthcare system to benefit from improvements in nursing practice as they occur globally.
This course also teaches the importance of critical reasoning, and nurses will be able to demonstrate this efficiently, both while working on their own and as a member of a team. The Australian healthcare system regulators emphasise continued study and learning. Australian Nurses are committed to lifelong professional development. Nursing in Australia has undergone a transformation over the past three decades from a vocation to a profession, with Nurses contributing to research, taking a scholarly interest in new learning opportunities, participating in discourse in the public sphere and commanding increasing levels of respect for their extensive and distinct expertise (for example, Graesh, 2005, 2012).
Overseas nurses both thrive on the opportunities that this yields and contribute to professionalization by introducing a global perspective, often building networks of international collaboration that are of benefit to their employers and create opportunities for Australian educated nurses to share their expertise abroad. [Also Check: How to Become a Registered Nurse in Australia]
Nurses who gain registration through the IRON program in Australia may go on to further study, with many becoming leaders and specialists. Once Registered with AHPRA, Nurses can work as a Registered Nurse in a variety of settings such as acute care, chronic care, aged care, rehabilitation and mental health.
If you are an overseas qualified nurse looking to work in Australia, please consider the IRON Program, which can get you started on a fulfilling nursing career path as an experienced Nurse in Australia. Your expertise will be greatly appreciated.
Grealish, L. and C. Trevitt (2005). “Developing a professional identity: student nurses in the workplace.” Contemporary Nurse 19(1-2 ): 137-150.
Grealish, L. (2012). “How competency standards became the preferred national technology for classifying nursing performance in Australia.” Australian Journal of Advanced Nursing 30(2): 20-31.