How to become a nurse in Australia: Types, skills, roles

Nurses provide medical and nursing care to patients, and a career in nursing can be incredibly rewarding. Nursing care can be provided in a hospital, at home, or in outpatient facilities. Nurses work as part of a care team that includes doctors, therapists, and social workers.

The nursing profession includes roles such as Enrolled Nurses, Registered Nurses, Practice Nurses, Theatre Nurses, Mental Health Nurses, and Clinical Nurses. Nursing is generally a good fit for those who love working with people and are interested in a work environment that’s constantly changing.

That said, nurses should have strong communication skills, be well organised, and work well with others to meet the demands of the job. They can be required to work shifts at all hours, so flexibility is key.

What is needed to become a nurse?

To become a nurse in Australia, you need to complete one of the following nursing qualifications:

  • a Diploma of Nursing;
  • a Bachelor of Nursing; or
  • a Master of Nursing (Graduate Entry) program.

There are also post-graduate nursing courses available for aspiring nurses and therapists in Australia, such as the Graduate Certificate in Nursing.

You will also be required to meet the registration requirements of the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia (NMBA) and the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA). During your nursing studies you will likely gain hands-on nursing experience, which will give you a glimpse into the life of nurse in Australia.

It’s worth noting that there is no one ‘nurse licence’ for nurses in Australia. Instead, nurses are required to apply for nurse registration with the NMBA, which effectively acts as a ‘nurse licence’ for registered nurses.       

Professional Indemnity insurance* – mandatory for nurses

The Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia requires all enrolled nurses, registered nurses, and midwives to meet minimum requirements for Professional Indemnity insurance.

Enrolled nurses, registered nurses and midwives are all required to hold Professional Indemnity with an adequate level of cover for your practice, and which includes the following:

  • civil liability cover;
  • appropriate retroactive cover for otherwise uncovered matters arising from prior practice; and
  • automatic reinstatement.

How Professional Indemnity can nurses doing what they love

Here are just some examples of when Professional Indemnity can reduce your exposure to the risks that you may face every day on the job as a nurse in Australia:

  • Misconduct or being accused of misconduct, either in an administrative or clinical role.
  • When you make an incorrect diagnosis.
  • Administering the incorrect medication, dosage, or treatment to a patient.
  • Failure to accurately carry out instructions for care of a patient.
  • Malpractice resulting in injury, damages, or even death to a patient.
  • Accidentally causing damage to a patient’s property.

What do nurses do?

Nurses are health professionals who love working with people. Once you have your nursing qualifications and your registration, you can become a registered nurse and start your career in nursing. Your working day will likely be incredibly varied. On any given day nurses may be involved in a combination of the following for their patients.

  • Taking and recording vital signs, such as patient temperature, blood pressure, heart rate and blood sugar.
  • Planning nursing requirements and creating a care plan.
  • Collecting patient samples.
  • Providing pre- and post-operative nursing care.
  • Writing care notes.
  • Providing emotional support to patients and relatives.
  • Administering and monitoring medication and intravenous drips.
  • Supervising and tutoring junior nurses and students.
  • Some nurses may work at a hospital or with home doctors

The seven common types of nurse roles

While there are many types of nurses, there are seven main nurse roles that make up the majority of nursing professionals, as follows.

1. Enrolled nurses

Enrolled Nurses (EN) provide nursing care as part of a multidisciplinary medical team. Enrolled nurses are supervised differently by each employer. They offer nursing comfort and support to patients in their scope of practice, whether it is within the healthcare, aged care, community, or welfare sector. An EN can administer medication to patients if they have completed the relevant medication administration education.

2. Registered nurses

So, what is a registered nurse and how do you become a registered nurse? Well, they are nurses who have completed tertiary education in nursing in one of the following programs:

If you intend to enroll in one of these tertiary nursing courses, it’s worth noting that nursing scholarships are available through organisations such as the Australian Department of Health and Aged care, and also through industry organisations such as the Australian Primary Health Care Nurses Association. Nursing scholarships are also available via state government organisations such as NSW Health, Health Vic, and Health Workforce Queensland.

The primary role of registered nurses (RN) is to deliver primary health care in hospitals, aged care facilities, in the community, or in a school setting. There are more than 303,000 registered nurses in Australia. A day in the life of an RN may include any of the following tasks:

  • developing nursing care plans;
  • administering medicine to patients;
  • providing specialised nursing care;
  • working in multidisciplinary teams;
  • supervising enrolled nurses and junior registered nurses;
  • undertaking regular professional development;
  • performing leadership and management duties such as being a nursing; unit manager or a team leader;
  • working in advanced nursing practice roles; and
  • assessing patients.

3. Practice nurses

Practice nurses provide education, advice, and support for a wide range of health concerns, from women’s healthcare to aged care management, chronic disease, asthma, mental illness, to name a few.

4. Theatre nurses

Theatre nurses (often referred to as Perioperative nurses) are part of a perioperative surgical team. They provide care in the following four key areas:

  • anaesthesia;
  • preoperative assessment;
  • the surgical phase; and
  • the recovery phase.

5. Mental health nurses

Mental health nurses are experienced specialists who focus on patients dealing with emotional and psychological health concerns. Mental health nurses provide care to patients in a variety of clinical, service, and forensic settings.

These can include hospitals, community health centers, crisis intervention, and inpatient care facilities. Mental health nurses provide support for patients with conditions such as anxiety, depression and schizophrenia.

6. Clinical nurses

Experienced, organised, and highly knowledgeable, clinical nurses are senior registered nurses who have typically completed postgraduate nursing studies in order to take on additional roles in the healthcare sector.

7. Midwife

Midwives are experienced registered health professionals who work with women in partnership to provide the support, care, and advice needed during pregnancy, delivery, and the early weeks following birth.

Strong leadership skills are critical for succeeding as a midwife; after all, a big part of the midwife profession is founded on woman-centred, evidence-based maternal care. In Australia, midwives are an integral part of the maternity care system, caring for nearly 300,000 women every year.

A midwife in Australia must complete an approved midwifery course through a university and be registered with the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia (NMBA); also referred to as the midwifery board.

As defined by the midwifery board, the scope of a midwife’s practice includes:

  • Providing healthcare, advice and support to women during pregnancy, labor, delivery and the postnatal phase;
  • Promoting natural childbirth, and identifying the complications that can occur for both mother and baby;
  • Consult other health care professionals or refer to other health professions if necessary; and
  • Implementing emergency measures.

If you are someone who loves working with people, and you possess empathy, and strong communication skills, then whichever nurse role you choose, you will be well-positioned to have a rewarding nursing career ahead of you.

How BizCover makes business insurance easy for nurses

At BizCover our mission is to make business insurance fast, easy, and ultimately cost-effective for nurses. And we cover a wide range of nurses, from enrolled nurses to registered nurses to mental health nurses, and many more.

While Professional Indemnity is a mandatory requirement for nurses, with BizCover you can also choose to further reduce your exposure to risk by investing Public Liability insurance and Cyber Liability insurance.

As a professional nurse, we know you have to manage dozens of tasks every day. We want to make it easy for you to get tailored nursing insurance at competitive rates.

Compare quotes from top-rated insurers online or call our team on 300 920 864 and get coverage in minutes

This information is general only and does not take into account your objectives, financial situation or needs. It should not be relied upon as advice. As with any insurance, cover will be subject to the terms, conditions and exclusions contained in the policy wording. © 2023 BizCover Pty Limited, all rights reserved. ABN 68 127 707 975; AFSL 501769

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