The diversity of critical care nursing education in Australian universities

Aust Crit Care. 2006 May;19(2):46-52. doi: 10.1016/s1036-7314(06)80009-3.


A range of critical care nursing educational courses exist throughout Australia. These courses vary in level of award, integration of clinical and academic competence and desired educational outcomes; this variability potentially leads to confusion by stakeholders regarding educational and clinical outcomes. The study objective was to describe the range of critical care nursing courses in Australia. Following institutional ethics approval, all relevant higher education providers (n=18) were invited to complete a questionnaire about course structure, content and nomenclature. Information about desired professional and general graduate characteristics and clinical competency was also sought. A total of 89% of providers (n=16) responded to the questionnaire. There was little consistency in course structure in regard to the proportion of each programme devoted to core, speciality or generic subjects. In general, graduate certificate courses concentrated on core aspects of critical care, graduate diploma courses provided similar amounts of critical care core and speciality content, while master's level courses concentrated on generic nursing issues. The majority of courses had employment requirements, although only a small proportion specified the minimum level of critical care unit required for clinical experience. The competency standards developed by the Australian College of Critical Care Nurses (ACCCN) were used by 83% of providers, albeit in an adapted form, to assess competency. However, only 60% of programmes used personnel with a combined clinical and educational role to assess such competence. In conclusion, stakeholders should not assume consistency in educational and clinical outcomes from critical care nursing education programmes, despite similar nomenclature or level of programme. However, consistency in the framework for speciality nurse education has the potential to prove beneficial for all stakeholders.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Australia
  • Clinical Competence
  • Critical Care*
  • Curriculum / statistics & numerical data
  • Education, Nursing / methods*
  • Education, Nursing / statistics & numerical data*
  • Educational Measurement / methods
  • Employment / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Schools, Nursing / statistics & numerical data*
  • Specialties, Nursing / education*