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Nursing career


The best things about nursing

Laurie BickhoffNurses can have a massive and lasting impact in the lives of those they treat. Registered nurse Laurie Bickhoff expands on that beautifully here. The scope of what people are doing with a nursing degree is expanding, and Australian College of Nursing CEO Debra Thoms speaks about nurse leadership from the ward to the boardroom.

Registered nurse Jennifer Smith listed the things she love about being a nurse. She detailed how being a nurse helped her improve her relationships which in turn let her discover more about herself. 

During the course, you will be undertaking interesting clinical placements in a variety of settings. There may be an opportunity to do a clinical placement overseas or to work overseas. In this video registered nurse Sharon Armstrong talks about where her career has taken her:


Things you really need to consider before deciding to study nursing

Not a back-up career – Registered Nurse Laurie Bickhoff said that nursing should not be seen as a back-up career for students who weren’t able to get into their preferred course.

Enrolled vs Registered – You also need to look at whether you want to become an enrolled nurse (EN) which is generally an 18 month diploma course, or a registered nurse (RN) which is generally a 3 year university course. Here is RN Belynda Abbott’s take on the difference between an enrolled nurse and a registered nurse.

Mathematical skills – While you do not have to be a mathematical genius to become a nurse, there is often the need to do calculations in your head.

overworked nursesBurnout – However, one study has suggested that nurses who only have altruistic motives are more likely to burnout or having emotional exhaustion. If you simply want to become a nurse to “help people” it might be worth finding other reasons why you want to go into the profession before enrolling in a course. RN Jennifer Smith has boldly spoken about her experience with burnout, and Sue Rittmeyer encourages nurses to look after themselves while looking after others.

Experience – there are some lessons that can’t be taught in nursing. Sometimes you need to experience them for yourself. There has been some debate about whether graduate nurses are workforce ready. Research also shows that graduate nurses may have difficulty caring for their patients due to factors in workplace dynamics.

Attitude –  Great nurses have well developed interpersonal skills. Nurses need to develop good relationships with patients, doctors, and other members of the health care team. It can be very difficult to treat each patient fairly without judgement, stereotypes and unconscious bias. 

A review led by Laurence Guillaumie PhD also found out that nurses who practice mindfulness perform better. Mindfulness is characterized by awareness, inner calmness, enthusiasm, and high sensitivity to patients’ experiences. 

Nurse to patient ratios – The Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation are often lobbying for higher nurse to patient ratios, and with good reason. Research shows that patient safety suffers when nurses are overworked.

The issue of nurse understaffing especially in the aged care sector is also something the Australian Nursing Midwifery Federation advocates for. ANMF calls for strengthened support for the nursing and midwifery workforce. They have discussed the current issues of staffing levels and shortages of nurses all over Australia. 

Shift work – Many nurses who work in a hospital will work long shifts which can include regular work on nights and weekends.

Female to male ratio – Nursing is a profession that dominated by females, and in Tasmania around 13% of nurses are men, and in New South Wales it is 10%.

Not like on TV – And no, nursing is NOT anything like how it is portrayed on TV!! RN Gail Timms covers this point here:


What do nurses do and where do they work?

The traditional working environment for nurses is at a hospital, with emergency departments being one of the most stressful working environment. Research suggests that it takes a “special breed” who possesses certain personalities to be successful in this demanding area.

These days nurses have a vast array of career opportunities that stretch beyond the traditional ward or hospital. The fields include:

While there are many areas of specialization within nursing, these may require the completion of a Transition to Specialty Practice Program (TSPP). Gaining a position in one of these programs can be highly competitive, and in some cases there can be around 40 applicants for one position.

Brett Aimers has gone on to become the Chief Nurse at St John Ambulance Australia. Some nurses make the successful transition into health-based businesses, with two examples of these being Shelley Straw and Sharon Armstrong.

Nurses can be involved in wound management and in the lead up to and at the time of death of their patients. It has also been said that nurses are well placed to look for signs of domestic violence, and that there should be further training for them to do so.

There are many technical skills that you need to learn to become a nurse. These include giving an injection and administering drugs. The training often includes simulations. Here is a video of a nurse demonstrating the removal of surgical clips:

Many nurses perform procedures which can cause the patient to be uncomfortable (in terms of physical discomfort and embarrassment), so a sense of humour, excellent communications skills and the ability to put people at ease are essential. Nurses are also often required to think on their feet and need the ability to quickly use their clinical reasoning skills to make decisions.


Are nursing graduates getting jobs?

Many people go into a nursing course believing that they are always assured of a job in nursing. While this is arguably the case for nurses who have at least 1-2 years’ experience, there has been a shortage of graduate positions for nurses for a number of years:

2011 registered nursing graduate Bradley Winter has shared some tips on what to do if you don’t get into a graduate nursing program. In the second half of this article, 2012 registered nursing graduate Laurie Bickhoff shares what she believes is required to gain entry into a graduate nursing program.

The Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation have said that Australian graduates are competing for jobs with overseas trained nurses coming to Australia on a Visa.

All of these statistics are in spite of the fact that Australia is on track to have a shortage of 109,000 nurses by 2025, with aged care being one of the areas which will require many more nurses in the future. My Health Career’s view is that nursing students need to consider employment options for their first job outside the hospital setting.


Where are the courses?

Please refer to the list on the Australian Health Practitioner Agency website for accredited registered nursing courses and enrolled nursing courses.


ATAR / OP for nursing

Click here for ATAR / OP information for nursing courses in Australia.

Click here for ATAR / OP information for midwifery courses in Australia.  

Latest News

Click here for the latest news about nursing.


University schUniversity scholarshipsolarships

Please read our scholarship listing thoroughly for this information.


How much money do nurses earn?

The statistics on myfuture say that full-time employed registered nurses earn an average of $1222 per week and part-time employed registered nurses earn $764 per week. A 2013 survey from the Australian Primary Health Care Nurses Association stated that nurses who worked in a general practice had an average hourly rate of $32.90, which had increased from $32.24 in 2012.


Videos about a career in nursing

Click here to go to our videos about a career in nursing. Videos include “A nursing career – where can it take you?” and “Nurse training – let’s listen to Sim Man the simulator!”


Career information from professional associations

Go to this page and click on the links from there.


Image: Image: David Castillo Dominici –

This page was last updated in May 2018.