How to become a nurse

Discover how to become a nurse in Australia and help countless people in medical, care and emergency settings. 

Begin your nursing career

There are two paths you can follow in your nursing career: you can become an enrolled nurse (EN) or a registered nurse (RN).

  1. If you want to start in the profession as an enrolled nurse and become a registered nurse down the line, you can begin with a two-year Diploma of Nursing that meets the enrolled nurse standards for practice.
  2. Alternatively, if you're keen to become a registered nurse right away, you should earn a Bachelor of Nursing or Bachelor of Nursing Science. If you have completed an undergraduate degree in a different field entirely, you can study a Master of Nursing (Graduate Entry).
  3. Read up on the International Council of Nurses (ICN) Code of Ethics.
  4. Register with the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia (NMBA) and complete a minimum of 20 hours of continuing professional development each year to maintain your registration. 

What does a nurse do?

Nurses are the backbone of the medical industry, providing medical assistance to injured, ill or otherwise debilitated people, ensuring each person receives the best care possible for their individual needs.

Beyond swabs, medications and blood draws (plus so much more), your primary purpose is people—communicating with them, helping them and empathising with their experiences. You’ll also be responsible for developing treatment plans and assessing behaviours, showing off your interpersonal skills alongside your medical acumen.  

Your daily duties will depend on where you enter the workforce. Nurses are essential to the smooth operation of hospitals, doctor’s offices, aged-care facilities, rehabilitation units and anywhere medical assistance and support is required. While an initial nursing certification will open doors at the enrolled nurse level, many nurses go on to become a registered nurse, advancing their career progression. 

Duties and tasks

Here are some of the common roles and responsibilities nurses are tasked with:

  • Recording medical history, vital signs and symptoms
  • Administering medications and treatment
  • Collaborating with healthcare teams for patient care
  • Conducting diagnostic tests and physical examinations
  • Providing pre and post operative care
  • Monitoring patients' health and implementing emergency measures if necessary
  • Providing support and advice to patients and their families
  • Operating medical equipment
  • Supervising junior nursing staff and providing education and training
  • Undertaking regular professional development

Industry bodies

Australian College of Nursing (ACN)

ACN is a professional nursing body that’s open to nurses in all settings and across all stages of their careers. The ACN offers a number of postgraduate courses and vocational studies including the ACN Transition to Practice Program that’s designed to prepare newly qualified nurses for entry into the workforce and allows new graduates to gain relevant skills and knowledge.

Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (ANMF)

Representing over 300,000 nurses, midwives and assistant nurses across Australia, ANMF is Australia’s largest national union and professional nursing and midwifery organisation. ANMF offers its members opportunities for continued professional development in order to maintain their nursing registration each year. 

International Council of Nurses (ICN)

ICN is a federation of over 130 national nurses’ associations representing over 27 million nurses around the world. The ICN endeavours to advocate for quality nursing care for all, stable health policies globally and the advancement of nursing knowledge. The ICN publishes its own code of ethics that details the four principle elements for ethical nursing conduct.

Nursing jobs

There are a number of positions you can pursue with a nursing qualification, such as:

  • Aged-care registered nurse
  • Case management nurse
  • Chief nursing officer
  • Clinical nurse
  • Enrolled nurse (EN)
  • Healthcare manager
  • Mental health nurse
  • Legal nurse consultant
  • Midwife
  • Nurse anaesthetist
  • Nurse educator
  • Nurse practitioner
  • Nurse researcher
  • Nurse unit manager
  • Pharmaceutical sales representative
  • Phlebotomist
  • Practice nurse
  • Registered nurse (RN)
  • Theatre nurse

Discover nursing courses online

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