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Careers in Nursing

Nurses are professional health care workers who cater for the needs of individual patients, families, or communities. They also support and work with other health care professionals such as Doctors and Surgeons.

Most nurses work in teams, from huge hospital departments with hundreds of medical professionals and staff, through to small group nursing practices. Some nurses work independently, for example as community aged care nurses, travelling from home to home to deliver care wherever it is needed.


Decide if you have what it takes to become a nurse


Do you think you’re empathetic, caring and would great at dealing with all kinds of patients?

Can you think and react well under pressure?

Are you a problem solver?

If you can answer yes to all the above, then it could be worth looking at nursing as a career option in more depth.

You’ll also need to have other skills and attributes, which should include:

  • Excellent communicator
  • Fit and active
  • Tolerant
  • Resilient
  • Flexible and adaptable outlook
  • Attentive and thorough


Nurses work in a variety of settings


You might imagine that as a nurse you’ll be stuck working in a ward in a hospital. But nurses work in a whole range of environments; from the middle of the city through to remote communities at the tip of Australia.

You could end up working in a:

  • Hospital
  • GP practise
  • School or other teaching / training environment
  • Out in the community (visiting people’s houses or working in clinics)
  • Court of law as a forensic nurse
  • War zones and at military bases
  • Prisons
  • On cruise ships and at resorts
  • Office working as a Nurse Unit Manager (NUM) or similar clinical management or administration roles

You could even end up working in publication houses as writers and reporters, or in board rooms representing other nurses.

Working from home is not usually an option. From a practical point, most nursing jobs require specialised equipment. Then there are ethical and hygiene considerations around having patients in your home.


What’s the work life balance like for nurses?


Nurses and midwives tend to have a relatively average working week at 42 hours. But that can depend on where you work, your level of responsibility, and what happens on your shift. You may also be required to work long shifts (often 12 hours) and at odd hours including at night, early mornings or late starts, as well as on weekends and public holidays.

While you may not have a lot of flexibility in when and where you work, on the plus side, it could be easier to come by part time and casual positions. This could allow you to work less when you have other things going on in your life (e.g. studying, parenting, caring for family), then go back to full time later on.


Job opportunities available for nurses


Jobs in healthcare have some of the strongest growth going forward into the future, so you can expect that there will always be plenty of jobs available. In fact, over the past couple of years there’s been lots of news about the shortage of nurses worldwide.


There are lots of types of nursing jobs


Assistant in Nursing – AINs are technically not nurses. They can perform nursing duties under the direction and supervision of a registered nurse.

Enrolled Nurse – works under the supervision of a registered nurse.

Registered Nurse – regulated by the Nurses and Midwives Board and are registered and licensed under the appropriate Nursing Act. They hold a higher level of responsibility and accountability than other nursing roles.

Clinical Nurses – RNs who have specialise in a certain area, get additional qualifications, and have work experience in those areas.

Midwife – health professionals responsible for the care of women and babies during pregnancy, labour, and for a little while after the babies are born. Midwives are usually licensed registered nurses who have obtained additional midwifery qualifications, as well as the necessary additional licensing.

Nurse Practitioner – RNs with additional qualifications and work experience who can provide advanced nursing services to patients and their families. From performing physical examinations and ordering testing, to prescribing medications.

Within these fields you can choose to specialise further to work in a field that you’re passionate about. For example, you could work in:

  • Critical Care or ICU and Emergency
  • Mental Health
  • Aged Care
  • Paediatrics
  • Cardiac
  • Surgical
  • Community Health
  • Education


Pathways into Nursing


One of the great things about becoming a nurse is the number of career pathways available to you.

If you’ve got the grades to get you into uni straight after leaving high school, then applying to uni and heading straight towards becoming an RN could be a good plan.

If you’re not so sure that you’ll get into a Bachelor of Nursing or Midwifery, then you could apply to do a Diploma, start working as an EN, then upskill to an RN later if you’d like to.

Once you’re an RN you’ve still got loads of options about which way you’d like your career to go. During the time you do your practical placements to qualify as an RN, you’ll get to try out a few different areas and decide if you’d like to specialise in a particular field.


You’ll need to be qualified and registered


To work in any capacity as a nurse, you’ll need to do some study after high school and get the appropriate registration.


Other careers in health


If you love the idea of nursing but you’re not sure you want to commit to lots of study after high school, you could look at other careers in the health and caring industries that require shorter courses such as a Certificate III in Aged Care, or a Certificate III in Individual Support.

Get a little experience and see some of the other roles in action, then decide if you’d like to gain more qualifications whenever you feel ready.


Find out more


If you’re looking for a rewarding but challenging role that’s has good job stability and offers opportunities for continued growth and change – nursing could be a career that will suit you really well.

If you’re looking for more information and guidance, the Pathways to Nursing Guide is available now, free for Study Work Grow members.


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