Nurses concerned over leap in competencies proposed by Nursing Council

February 9, 2024

The Nursing Council of New Zealand says it is listening, after a “strong” response from nearly 2300 nurses to its proposed new competencies for both enrolled nurses (ENs) and registered nurses (RNs).

So far, 2225 nurses have made submissions or completed the Nursing Council survey on the changes since they were released in December 2023, projects manager Jane MacGeorge said. Another 54 individuals or organisations had made written submissions.


The cut-off for feedback is on Monday February 12, and the new competencies are expected to be finalised by mid-2024.


Under the proposed changes, the number of competencies required has grown from four to 41. They are grouped within five domains or pou (pillars) for ENs and six domains/pou for RNs.

Catherine Byrne

Nursing Council chief executive Catherine Byrne says in the proposal document that the new competencies reflected the council’s commitment to Te Tiriti o Waitangi and the role of nurses in improving health equity for Māori.

The review was intended to ensure all nurses are competent to practise in a culturally safe and ethical manner, she says.


Current RN/EN domains/broad competencies are: Professional responsibility; management of nursing care; interpersonal relationships; interprofessional health care and quality improvement.

Within the four current domains are 20 competencies but also nearly 100 “indicators” — specific requirements within the competency. Those have been removed in the new proposal.

The proposed new RN pou/domains are:

  • Te Tiriti of Waitangi, Ōritetanga (equality) and social justice
  • Kawa whakaruruhau and cultural safety
  • Pūkengatanga (skill) and excellence in nursing practice
  • Manaakitanga and people-centredness
  • Whakawhanaungatanga (relationships) and communication
  • Rangatiratanga and leadership

Within the six pou are 41 competencies but no indicators.

The proposed new EN pou/domains are:

  • Te Tiriti o Waitangi
  • Cultural safety
  • Knowledge-informed practice
  • Professional accountability and responsibility
  • Partnership and collaboration

Details for both can be found here:

NZNO members have expressed concern too many new competencies would add to their workload — already burdened by continuing competence requirements such as professional development and recognition programmes (PDRPs).

In a statement, the Nursing Council has acknowledged the concern over the number of competencies and said it would likely be cutting them down as a result.

“The review will take this into account and the council will work with the nursing profession, educators, and employers to consider how new competencies could be implemented in practice, including the processes for maintaining continuing competence.”

Nurses have until Monday February 12 to feedback via a survey or written submission, here.


While EN competencies were updated as part of their scope of practice review last year, RN competencies have not been updated since 2016, the Nursing Council notes in its proposal. Both needed to reflect a modern nursing profession in a changing world.

Byrne said the council had been guided in its proposal by nursing leaders, educators, NZNO’s EN section, Te Rūnanga o Aotearoa NZNO, professional groups and Māori and Pacific nursing leaders.