How to become a Nurse - Registered

Registered nurses assess, plan, provide and evaluate preventative, curative and rehabilitative care for patients, clients and residents in a wide variety of settings. Areas of specialist nursing practice include emergency, trauma nursing, mental health, aged care, cancer/oncology, critical care, perioperative, community health, rural and remote health, as well as policy, research, management, education and workplace health and safety.

Personal requirements of a Nurse - Registered

  • Good communication skills
  • Able to assume responsibility and a leadership role
  • Able to take initiative in emergencies
  • Tolerant, patient and tactful in dealing with people from a wide range of backgrounds and cultures
  • Able to work both independently and as part of a team
  • Able to cope with the physical demands and psychological aspects of the job

Education & Training for a Nurse - Registered

To become a registered nurse you usually have to study nursing at university. To get into these courses you usually need to gain your Senior Secondary Certificate of Education. Prerequisite subjects, or assumed knowledge, in one or more of English, mathematics, biology, physics and chemistry are normally required. Applicants may also be required to attend an interview. Universities have different prerequisites and some have flexible entry requirements or offer external study. Contact the institutions you are interested in for more information.

Additional Information

Before undertaking the clinical placements required by courses, students will need to obtain a National Police Certificate, a Provide First Aid Certificate and immunisations, and undergo a Working with Children Check. Contact the institutions you are interested in for more information. Clinical placements may require travel to both metropolitan and rural areas. It is a legal requirement for graduates to be registered with the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia before being able to practise as a nurse in any state or territory in Australia. For full details, see the board's website. Following registration, there are courses available in a range of clinical specialities, including medical-surgical, mental health, paediatric, emergency, critical care, palliative care, occupational health and community nursing. There are also postgraduate nursing courses available in management and education. Registration permits a person to work as a registered nurse in any relevant area of employment, except midwifery, which is restricted to registered midwives only. To become a midwife you must either complete postgraduate study in midwifery or a Bachelor of Midwifery. See the separate entry for Midwife for more information.

Duties & Tasks of a Nurse - Registered

Registered nurses:

  • provide physical and technical nursing care and support for patients
  • provide emotional and psychological support and health information to patients and their families
  • supervise or carry out nursing care of patients
  • observe, monitor, assess, report and document patients' conditions and responses to treatment
  • administer medicines and other prescribed medical treatments to patients, in accordance with relevant legislation
  • monitor and adjust medical equipment used in patient care and treatment, which can be highly technical and complex
  • prepare patients for surgical operations, assisting with surgical procedures and the provision of post-operative care, such as wound care and nutritional management
  • plan and provide rehabilitative care of patients, including discharge planning and care
  • provide first aid, perform routine physical examinations, give advice about health matters and maintain sickness and accident records (where employed by large industrial or commercial organisations)
  • contribute to the clinical training of nursing and midwifery students
  • supervise nursing support staff and other hospital staff.

Working conditions for a Nurse - Registered

In hospitals, nurses usually work according to a rotating seven-day roster that includes morning, afternoon and night shifts, as well as weekends and public holidays. In other areas, the hours depend on the service.

Employment Opportunities for a Nurse - Registered

Registered nurses may work in public and private hospitals; community and home-based services such as doctors' surgeries, community health centres and development programs, and youth and women's shelters; and school and university health clinics. They may also work in remote and rural areas. Nurses are also employed by the Defence Force, international aid agencies and the Royal Flying Doctor Service. An increasing number of nurses are becoming self-employed as consultants or educators, or working through nursing agencies. With experience, and sometimes further study, registered nurses may progress to unit manager or nursing manager roles. The increasing variety of specialist services and advances in medical technology have increased the demand for nurses with training and experience in specialist areas.


Clinical Nurse Specialist

A clinical nurse specialist a registered nurse who has demonstrated competency in advanced practice or has developed competency in an area of specialisation.

Community Health Nurse

A community health nurse works in the wider community, providing nursing care, health counselling, health forums and group programmes to individuals, families and groups. They may develop and facilitate community development programmes with a health promotion focus.

Mental Health Nurse

A mental health nurse provides nursing care to patients with psychological and emotional problems who are undergoing treatment and support in hospitals, clinics, community settings or private homes.

Nurse Educator

A nurse educator assists with the design, implementation and assessment of education programmes; delivery of education and staff development programmes; and the management of educational resources.

Nurse Practitioner

A nurse practitioner has highly developed skills and knowledge in a specialty field (wound care, sexual health or aged care, for example). They work independently in their area of specialty and can prescribe medications and tests.

Nurse Researcher

A nurse researcher conducts research into nursing and health issues.

Practice Nurse

A practice nurse employed by general practitioners to conduct general treatments. They may also work in chronic disease management and health promotion or perform other general practice and administrative duties.

Avg. weekly wage:


Future growth:

Very strong

Employment by state:

NSW 29%

NT 1.7%

QLD 21.7%

SA 8.2%

TAS 2.6%

VIC 23.2%

WA 11.9%

ACT 1.1%


Hours worked:



Lower unemployment

Gender split:

Male 8%

Female 92%

Education level:

Not completed Year 10: 0.4%

Not completed Year 12: 1.1%

Highest qualification is secondary school: 1.4%

Highest qualification is a Certificate 3 or 4: 1%

Highest qualification is a Diploma or Advanced Diploma: 11.1%

Highest qualification is a Bachelor degree: 77.2%

Highest qualification is a Postgraduate Diploma or Graduate Certificate: 9.7%

Age brackets:

15-19 - 0.1%

20-24 - 6.1%

25-34 - 26.8%

35-44 - 22.6%

45-54 - 19.5%

55-59 - 8.2%

60-64 - 7.1%

65 and Over - 9.5%

*The data above is sourced from the Department of Employment’s Job Outlook website.

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