Group calls for updated proficiency standards

The National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN), which represents the 60 state and territorial boards that regulate nurses in the United States, has recommended state and federal policymakers update the minimum score foreign-educated nurses must achieve on two federally recognized English language proficiency tests before they can work in the United States.

The changes would apply to the Immigration and Nationality Act, which requires foreign health care workers who request certification to work in health care in the United States meet minimum set standard scores on federally recognized English proficiency tests. The council is asking that Section 212.15 (g) (4), paragraphs (i) and (ii), be updated to reflect its latest recommendations for current standards.

NCSBN asserts that sufficient English language proficiency is a crucial aspect of the American nursing practice.

The council recommends requiring overall scores on the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) of 560 or higher for the written version of the test, 220 for the computer-based test, and 83 for the Internet-based exam. For the alternative International English Language Testing System (IELTS) test, the council recommends minimum scores of at least 6.0 on all modules and 6.5 overall. The recommendations exceed the Department of Health and Human Services' (HHS) current standards for the TOEFL written test (540) and computer-based test (207); HHS does not designate a minimum score for each IELTS module. However, HHS requires minimum scores for spoken English that are not part of the NCSBN proposal.

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