In light of recent years’ events and the first global-scale health crisis most of us will have ever experienced, the role of healthcare and medical professionals has never been more crucial!
Whether you’ve been observing in the news, having relatives in medical professions, or living with a frontline medical worker, if you’re anything like us, you’ve probably been impressed and perhaps inspired by the dedication and commitment these professionals show in their duty to their work.
That’s why this International Nurses Day, we wanted to take a moment to highlight the role of nurses in our communities and take a look at what the career path to becoming a nurse looks like in Australia.
What is International Nurses Day?
Each year, the International Council of Nurses leads the celebrations on International Nurses Day, held on the 12th of May – the anniversary of Florence Nightingale’s birth.
The theme for International Nurses Day (IND) 2022 is Nurses: A Voice to Lead – Invest in nursing and respect rights to secure global health. The theme aims to focus on the need to protect, support, and invest in the nursing profession to strengthen health systems worldwide.
How Do You Become a Nurse in Australia?
There are two key pathways to becoming a nurse in Australia, these are:
- Registered Nurse (RN): It takes longer to qualify as an RN, as the role generally has more responsibility. RNs can become unit/ward managers, team leaders and also work within medical administration. RNs work in private and public medical organisations, mainly hospitals, across all medical departments.
- Enrolled Nurse (EN): ENs work under RNs, and the qualification pathway is slightly shorter but still requires a strong commitment. They observe, measure and record their patients’ condition, reporting changes to the RN or the doctors. ENs can work across various medical and health organisations, including hospitals, aged care, and community health.
The study pathway for each is slightly different, and in general, RNs have a higher level of expertise and responsibility than ENs.
To become an RN, you will:
- Complete a Bachelor of Nursing. This can take three years, but many universities also offer a fast-track program, which can be completed in two years, including practical placements.
- Apply to the Australian Health Practitioners Regulation Agency (AHPRA) to practice as an RN. You will need to renew this registration annually.
- Start work as a general RN, and define your expertise as you grow your career. Many RNs pick a speciality in time.
To become an EN, you will:
- Complete a Diploma of Nursing as a minimum. This typically takes 18 months to complete.
- Apply to the Australian Health Practitioners Regulation Agency (AHPRA) to practice as an EN. You will need to renew this registration annually.
- After working, you can decide if you want to pursue further studies to qualify as an RN or specialise as an EN in a specific department (aged care or rehabilitation).
What Type of Nursing Could You Go Into?
While you might think that being a nurse is all about working wherever you’re needed, the truth is many nurses – especially RNs are highly specialised within one specific medical area.
Essentially, specialised RNs work just in those departments for every medical department within a hospital. This gives them the ability to become experts in one core area, meaning they can assist and provide the best level of care to their patients.
Here’s a quick look at some possible departments to specialise in:
- Emergency Nursing – assisting emergency and ambulance crews with urgent care patients coming into the hospital.
- Cardiology Nursing – assisting patients with heart conditions and those recovering from heart surgeries.
- Paediatrics Nursing – assisting with the care of young children in hospital for various medical reasons.
- Cancer Nursing – assisting patients diagnosed with cancer with their treatments and recovery.
- Intensive care – providing care and support to patients in intensive care. These are usually patients who’ve undergone major surgery.
Can You Get Work Experience as a Nurse?
Both study pathways into nursing have clinical work placements included in the course, recognising that gaining hands-on, practical experience is a vital component of your learning journey and deciding whether this is the right pathway for you long term.
Young people interested in gaining some insights and experience could offer to volunteer in their local aged care homes or community centres with aged care groups. This will typically involve low-level support, such as serving drinks and meals, playing games and general conversation with individuals. But it does give you the chance to meet RNs and Ens, ask about their experiences, and get insights into the full range of care provided in these places.
3 Entry Level Positions to Explore
If you’re unsure whether you want to commit to a full degree to become an RN, you can start your career with an entry-level position.
You can typically enter these roles through an apprenticeship or by gaining a TAFE qualification, and they can help you decide if nursing is the long term role for you:
- Assistant in Nursing: Assistants in Nursing (AlN) work under the supervision of a Registered Nurse or Enrolled Nurse. They help nurses carry out their duties, including assisting patients with toileting and showering and restocking/taking care of equipment.
- Aged Care Worker: Aged Care Workers support elderly people by assisting with daily activities and personal tasks. This includes providing support with eating, showering, dressing, tidying and cleaning. Aged Care Workers can work from their client’s home or residential care facility.
- NDIS Support Worker: Like Aged Care Workers, NDIS Support workers help people living with a disability to lead independent lives. They provide support with daily living skills such as shopping, cooking, travel, and getting to work or training.
Want to Find Out More?
Our Healthcare and Social Assistance Industry profile is a great place to start!
Here you can find out more about salaries, study pathways and the core skills to work on if you think nursing could be the right role for you.