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Considering a career as a nurse? As a nurse, you’ll provide care and make a difference to patients and the broader community. Nursing is a rewarding career that offers a diverse range of specialty areas of practice and a variety of settings.

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Nursing is the nation’s largest health care profession.

Australia is now home to more than 355,430 practising enrolled nurses, registered nurses and midwives who are pivotal to the community’s health and well-being.

To become a nurse, you must complete a program of study that has been approved by the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia.

While course content can vary slightly between universities, the core content and clinical requirements remain the same, and are determined by the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Accreditation Committee (ANMAC).

There are two main education pathways to enter a career in nursing.

One is to complete the three-year full-time Bachelor of Nursing undergraduate program to become a registered nurse (RN).

Most Bachelor of Nursing programs feature evidence-based practice and reflect current trends in the nursing profession.

Programs are designed to equip students with the theoretical knowledge and the practical skills required for their nursing career.

They cover topics such as anatomy and physiology, effective communication, nursing practices, research in practice, medications and safe administration, law and ethics, mental health, child and family nursing, community nursing, aged care nursing and advanced clinical decision making.

As part of the practical components, students will also experience a variety of clinical placements including acute/sub-acute care, medical and surgical care, aged care, community, paediatrics and mental health nursing.

Students are currently required to complete a minimum of 800 hours of clinical placement under accreditation requirements.

Clinical placements are designed to enable students to develop, integrate and consolidate their knowledge and clinical skills.

The other entry into nursing is to become an enrolled nurse (EN) by completing a Diploma of Nursing.

Many higher education providers, including TAFEs and universities, offer the 18-month to two-year Diploma of Nursing.

The course teaches the essential skills and knowledge needed for enrolled nurses to work alongside registered nurses in a variety of health care settings, from basic nursing care to assessing patients’ health and analysing health information.

Enrolled nurses wanting to progress to a degree qualification to become a registered nurse can go on to complete a Bachelor of Nursing, and can apply to receive some credit for recognition of prior learning.

The Master of Nursing enables nurses to advance their nursing knowledge and skills, either in a general strand or in a specialist setting.

The postgraduate program provides nurses with the theoretical knowledge and critical thinking skills to apply advanced nursing concepts in order to lead nursing practice and optimise health outcomes.

Students can choose either a coursework or research pathway and, beginning in 2015, all Masters programs in Australia will be 18 months duration, full-time.

Online postgraduate study is a great way for nurses to balance work and family commitments with career advancement. This balance is becoming increasingly important for aspiring nurse leaders.

Bachelor of Nursing deputy program director Hazel Rands, of Griffith University’s School of Nursing and Midwifery, says most universities offer step-off points from the Masters program.

“You can enrol in a Masters but after you’ve done four subjects or six subjects you can exit with a Graduate Certificate,” she says.

“Once you’ve done eight or 10, and it depends on the university, you can exit with a Graduate Diploma or you can go on and complete the Masters program.

“Most of those are focused on specialty areas such as critical care, rural health, midwifery, paediatrics or child health and mental health and there’s also a general strand if you don’t want to specialise.

“Many universities have a Master of Nursing strand where you choose the specialty but you still need to do research within it or you can choose to do a bigger research project to become PhD-prepared.

“The majority of nurses doing a PhD are either working as an academic, working in research or working as clinicians at quite a high level where they are either running or part of their work profile is research.”

Ms Rands says those passionate about caring for others and making a difference to people’s lives should consider pursuing an education pathway into a nursing career.

“I think that it’s an amazing profession,” she says.

“If you are genuinely wanting to make a difference and to work in a profession where not only can you give a little back every day, and also what it gives to you in your personal and professional development is something that you’re not likely to get in a lot of other professions.

“If that’s something that really inspires you, then you should consider nursing as a really viable option.”


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Karen Keast

Karen Keast is a freelance health journalist who writes news and feature articles for HealthTimes.

Karen regularly writes for some of Australia’s leading health news websites and magazines.  In a media career spanning 20 years, Karen has worked as a senior journalist in newspapers and television. She has covered the grind of daily news and worked as a politics reporter at countless state and federal elections.

Since venturing into freelance writing five years ago, Karen has found her niche in writing about the health sector for editors, businesses and corporations.

Karen has interviewed the heads of peak health organisations in Australia and overseas, and written hundreds of news and feature articles covering the dedicated work of health professionals who tread the corridors of hospitals and health services, universities, aged care facilities and practices, day in and day out.

Follow Karen Keast on Twitter @stylemywords