Nurses work closely with patients, their families and other health professionals. They are well known for their compassion and communication skills. As a nurse, you will encounter some people during the most difficult times of their lives and others during the most exciting times. This is a career that is both rewarding and versatile.
For more information about this field, visit the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation website.
The courses and employment opportunities available will depend on the level of qualification you complete. There are three qualification levels in nursing:
Vocational Education and Training (VET) qualifications in nursing include diplomas and advanced diplomas in nursing. These courses qualify graduates to work as a nurse at the ‘enrolled’ or ‘division 2’ level rather than the ‘registered’ or 'division 1' nurse level. Registered nurse positions require the completion of a bachelor of nursing at undergraduate level, although there are special pathways with credit available for graduates who want to upgrade their VET qualification to an undergraduate degree. There are some differences in the tasks you are qualified to perform as an enrolled nurse, which is explained in Nursing jobs in Australia.
Applicants must meet academic and English language entry requirements, which vary between courses, institutions and qualification levels. Some VET courses in nursing require the completion of Year 12 with studies in mathematics and science or relevant employment experience. Applicants may also need to complete a test or interview as part of the selection process and obtain required immunisations, a police check and a Working with Children Check in order to complete clinical placements. For more information about VET qualifications and entry requirements, see Vocational Education.
VET qualifications in nursing are available at both metropolitan and regional campuses around the country, mainly at TAFE institutes, but also through some universities and private colleges.
Since practical experience is an important aspect of nursing courses, it is important to check that the courses and institutions you are considering have good facilities, offer clinical placements and provide access to the latest equipment. The best courses should also have good contacts with industry and employers.
Undergraduate qualifications in nursing include bachelor degrees in nursing and midwifery. The completion of a bachelor of nursing degree qualifies graduates to work as a nurse at the ‘registered’ or 'division 1' level. Registered nurses have higher qualifications than ‘enrolled’ or ‘division 2’ nurses and are able to perform a wider range of tasks (see Nursing jobs in Australia for details).
The completion of a bachelor of midwifery qualifies graduates to work as a midwife. Students wishing to become a midwife are also able to complete a bachelor of nursing and then complete training in midwifery at postgraduate level. Double degrees in nursing and midwifery enable graduates to work as both a registered nurse and a midwife.
Although some degrees allow students to specialise in a particular area of nursing (such as psychiatric nursing or surgical nursing), you may need to work in a range of areas and complete additional study after graduating in order to work in the area in which you want to specialise.
Applicants must meet academic and English language entry requirements, which vary between courses, institutions and qualification levels. Some undergraduate courses in nursing require the completion of prerequisite studies in mathematics in secondary school. Applicants who have completed a VET qualification in nursing or who have relevant work experience are able to enter undergraduate degrees through special pathways with credit. Applicants may need to obtain required immunisations, a police check and a Working with Children Check in order to complete clinical placements. For more information about undergraduate qualifications and entry requirements, see Higher Education — Undergraduate.
Nursing courses are widely available at undergraduate level and are offered around Australia by most universities and some TAFE institutes.
Since practical experience is an important aspect of nursing courses, it is important to check that the courses and institutions you are considering have good facilities (such as on-campus health clinics and simulation wards), offer a number of clinical placements and provide access to the latest equipment. The best courses should also have good contacts with industry and employers.
The majority of postgraduate coursework programs in nursing are designed for nursing professionals with prior qualifications and experience who want to upgrade their qualifications or enter new specialisations. Specialisations include aged care nursing, critical care nursing, mental health nursing, midwifery, paediatric nursing and rehabilitation nursing, among many others. Postgraduate ‘conversion’ programs or graduate entry bachelor degrees are also available, which enable applicants who have completed an approved undergraduate degree in an area other than nursing (science, for example) to qualify as a registered nurse. A small number of postgraduate coursework degrees in areas such as clinical leadership and nursing management enable practising nurses to qualify for nursing management and administration positions.
Research degrees in nursing are available and include research masters degrees and research doctorates. Currently, only a small number of nursing postgraduate students complete research programs — many of them are nurse educators.
Applicants must meet academic and English language requirements, which vary between courses, institutions and qualification levels. Entry to most courses requires the completion of an undergraduate degree in nursing or, in the case of conversion programs, an approved undergraduate degree in another field. For more information about postgraduate qualifications and entry requirements, see Higher Education — Postgraduate.
Postgraduate nursing courses are offered at universities and some private higher education providers around Australia, although some specialisations may only be available at a limited number of institutions.
When researching courses, you should investigate the quality of the program and its relevance to your nursing career. This means checking the outline to get an idea of the subject matter and the combination of practical and theoretical elements. If you have a particular career goal in mind, such as working in a rural area, you should ensure that relevant opportunities will be available.
If you are considering a research degree, you should look for university departments and schools with an established research program in your area of interest, as well as a strong connection with the nursing profession if you are interested in applied research. You should also investigate possible supervisors.
Most people think of nurses as working exclusively in clinical practice (treating the sick or injured) and in hospitals, but there is a much wider variety of careers available. Nurses can work in hospital, community and industrial settings, including aged care facilities, community centres, factories, offices, schools, pharmaceutical companies and in patients’ homes. Many also work as nurse educators or nursing managers and administrators. There are also specialisations within clinical practice areas, such as emergency, aged care, mental health, midwifery, palliative care or intensive care.
VET qualifications in nursing focus on providing the skills and education required for qualification as an enrolled or ‘division 2’ nurse. Enrolled nurses are associates of registered or ‘division 2’ nurses and work under their direction and supervision. They are involved in many aspects of patient care and health promotion but, unlike registered nurses, they implement rather than plan nursing care and are not qualified to administer medications. Although enrolled nurses may end up specialising in a specific type of nursing because they choose a particular health setting, they do not have the same capacity as registered nurses to adopt a clinical specialty.