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Steps to becoming a nurse in Australia

So, you’re the person everyone goes to when they need painkillers, a bandaid or a shoulder to cry on? A nursing career may be just right for you.

Browsing the aisles of your local pharmacy is like heaven to you and during your visits to the GP, you've always been fascinated by the goings on of the health care industry. Not only that, you're empathetic, kind and believe every person deserves dignity, especially when they're sick or in need of care.

Now you want to expand on your passion by exploring a career in nursing, where you can utilise your natural empathy, organisation and problem solving skills helping others.

What pathways are there and what courses should I study to become a nurse?

In Australia, there are three main, protected titles for qualified nurses and the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia (NMBA) requires nurses to complete specified training pathways before they're registered to practise.

  1. Enrolled Nurse (EN)
    • You must complete a two-year Diploma of Nursing through a tertiary institution like TAFE Queensland to become an EN.
  2. Registered Nurse (RN)
    • You'll complete a three-year Bachelor of Nursing through a university to become an RN.
  3. Nurse Practitioner (NP)
    • NP's are experienced RN's with a Masters level degree from university who have been endorsed by the NMBA to practise independently within an advanced clinical role, as well as being able to dispense some medicines.

Becoming an EN is an excellent way to begin your nursing career. You can gain your Diploma of Nursing (HLT54121) in 18 months, meaning you can get straight to work, even if you then decide to upgrade your qualification to RN while you gain industry experience later. Plus, there's even an option to study your Diploma of Nursing (HLT54121) online, giving more people the opportunity to get started in this rewarding career.

The nursing field is one of the most in demand professions in the country. No matter where you're located, becoming an EN offers you job security, with roles to be found in both large cities and in rural and regional towns across the country.

ENs work under a registered nurse's supervision. As an EN, you'll support, safeguard, and advance the health of those in your care by giving them physical and emotional care, keeping track of their medical needs, giving them medicine, upholding infection prevention and control, conducting clinical evaluations, and participating in care planning.

What specialties can an EN work within?

The nursing specialities in which ENs can work in include medicine, surgery, mental health, paediatrics, orthopaedics, rehabilitation, oncology, operating rooms, rural and distant locations, emergency departments, ambulatory care centres, and community health care settings.

How long does it take to become a registered nurse (RN)?

You must complete a Bachelor of Nursing degree in order to become an RN in Australia, which can take around three years. When you achieve your degree, you'll then apply to the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia in order to register to practise as an RN.

But if you don't want to wait three years to get started, you don't have to. Successfully completing a Diploma of Nursing (HLT54121) can see you working as an Enrolled Nurse in just 18 months. If you want to continue your studies to become an RN, your diploma will generally give you one year of credit towards a Bachelor or Nursing, allowing you to continue your studies while you start working in the industry.

Is it too late to start studying to become a nurse?

It's never too late to start studying to become a nurse. In fact, according to the Australian Governments Labour Market Insights, over 70 per cent of Enrolled Nurses in Australia are over 35 years old. In fact, the average EN is 46 years old.

It's never too late to change careers or follow a dream into a career you've always been interested in. There are so many benefits to qualifying as a nurse as an older adult, including:

  • having more time to focus on your studies and classes, as well as practical experiences
  • opportunities to work within many different health care settings, including both fast and slow-paced workloads.
  • the flexibility of choosing from various schedules and shifts, giving you the opportunity to explore other interests and balance your personal and work life.

Is becoming a nurse worth it?

With any job, there are pros and cons. In your nursing career you'll:

  • Work in a setting that involves high highs and low lows — You'll grow your empathetic muscles working in the nursing profession and have the opportunity to play a positive and meaningful role in the lives of your patients and their loved ones.
  • Likely include a number of (what may be) unsettling experiences like bodily fluids, open wounds and unpleasant smells — The plus side of these experiences is the reward of knowing you're offering dignity and respect to people in their most scary and difficult circumstances.
  • Work some long, sometimes 12 hours shifts — While to some this work may be strenuous and taxing, it also offers you the opportunity for a condensed work week with more continuous time off.

Should I become a nurse?

You should qualify as a nurse if you like the idea of:

  • being one of the most trusted professionals in Australia
  • a workday that offers you a variety of different experiences
  • being an appreciated and meaningful part of someone's scariest moment
  • being paid (on average) over $75,000
  • having the opportunity to shape the way we care for one another
  • helping to save lives.

There are wonderful career opportunities that can be found through a Diploma of Nursing (HLT54121) from TAFE Queensland. You'll learn practical skills in our simulated training labs before going on to experience further learning during your work placement.

To find out more about a career in nursing, check out our webinar with Georgia, one of our highly skilled nursing teachers.

Seize your opportunity with Fee-Free TAFE

The career of your dreams is within reach thanks to Fee-Free TAFE funding. Follow your passion and choose from over 90 industry-recognised courses. With a wide range of skill sets, certificates and diplomas available, now’s the time to get job ready in 2023 with Fee-Free TAFE.