If you want a career where you can show care and compassion and make a positive difference in a person's life every day, then maybe you are already considering nursing. 

When you think of a nurse, possibly the first image that pops into your mind is that of a woman, in a white gown, doing her rounds in a hospital setting.  That's perhaps the stereotype. Nursing is a career pursued by men and women, you don't necessarily wear white gowns and not all nurses work in clinical environments or hospitals.

In fact, there are many career pathways you can follow as a registered nurse once you've done your nursing training, completed the registration requirements and have some experience.

But first, the training.

Is there only one nursing qualification? What are the entry requirements for nursing courses and where do you do them — TAFE or university? 

We'll answer these questions now.

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What are the Different Levels?

There is more than one qualification you can do depending on the type of nurse you want to become.

In Australia, there are six levels of nursing. Each level has different roles and skills, and increasing responsibilities and accountability in their place of work.

  • Assistant in Nursing — it is not mandatory for students to undertake training or gain a qualification to work as an Assistant in Nursing. However, certificate level health or nursing-related courses at TAFE are recommended. These nurses mainly work in aged care and are responsible for patients' hygiene and day-to-day care.
  • Enrolled Nurse — a diploma is required to become an Enrolled Nurse. These nurses have more responsibility than an Assistant in Nursing and work directly under a supervising Registered Nurse. They are required to monitor patient symptoms, attend to their care needs and complete observations (such as temperature and blood pressure) as stipulated on the patient care form.
What are the different levels of nursing?
A Nurse Practitioner is a Registered Nurse who has a Master's degree qualification and lengthy experience, allowing them to operate autonomously in advanced roles | Source: Pixabay - k-e-k-u-l-e
  • Registered Nurse (RN) — to work as an RN, you must complete a 3-year Bachelor's program at university. Registered Nurses are often required to act as supervisors or team leaders. They have more responsibility when it comes to the management and implementation of patient care and other clinical duties.
  • Clinical or Advanced Practice Nurse — an Advanced Practice Nurse (also sometimes known as a Clinical Nurse) is an RN who has several years of experience and has undertaken extra training in specialised areas.
  • Midwife — to be qualified and registered as a midwife,  you must have a Bachelor of Midwifery degree.
  • Nurse Practitioner — this is the most senior level of nursing attainable. Nurse Practitioners are Registered Nurses who have vast practical experience in their specialisation. To be recognised as a Nurse Practitioner, you must also complete a Master of Nursing or other related Master's study program. These nurses are qualified to work independently and are allowed to prescribe some medications.

What Qualification is Needed to Become a Nurse?

There are four education paths you can follow in your quest to gain qualifications and apply to be registered as one of the nurses listed in the previous section. These range from certificate nursing courses at TAFE level, through to a TAFE or university diploma, and a Bachelor's degree or Master's degree.

Certificate courses

There are a few different certificates you can do that give you a basic nursing qualification. All certificate courses are completed at TAFE (Technical and Further Education institutions). A couple you can choose from include Certificate III in Health Services Assistance (nursing work in acute care settings), Individual Support (Ageing) and Individual Support Disability.

A certificate course equips students with the required skills and a qualification to work as an Assistant in Nursing.

Diploma courses

Students who study for a Diploma of Nursing will gain the skills to work as an Enrolled Nurse.

The program of study takes 18 months to 2 years to complete and is offered by both TAFE and university institutions. A Diploma of Nursing usually consists of a set number of core units and elective units, plus clinical placement periods totalling around 400 hours.

Some institutions offer their Diploma of Nursing through online study, although obviously, the clinical placement needs to be in person.

Bachelor degree courses

A Bachelor of Nursing is a university degree that takes around 3 years of full-time study to complete. Once you graduate, you are eligible to apply to become a Registered Nurse.

Most Bachelor of Nursing courses includes practical placement periods each year or semester, allowing students to experience a range of different clinical settings in both metropolitan and rural areas.

All courses focus on the fundamentals of nursing practice and the Australian health system in the first two years, covering a variety of situations including mental health, medical and surgical nursing. In the third year, students can generally focus more on their preferred specialisation, such as palliative care, advanced speciality nursing or paediatrics.

What characteristics do nurses need?
Apart from having a formal qualification, a good nurse will also be caring, empathetic and able to work with a range of different patients | Source: Pixabay - Alexas_Fotos

Beyond the bachelor programs, qualified Registered Nurses can continue to study and work towards Advanced Practice Nurse status. Course options include, but aren't limited to, Graduate Certificate in Health (Emergency Nursing), Graduate Certificate in Health (Intensive Care Nursing) or Graduate Certificate in Health (Advanced Nursing).

Registered Nurses may also decide to complete a Master of Nursing later in their career. A Master's degree usually takes one year of full-time study but can be taken as a part-time option and equips the RN to apply to be a Nurse Practitioner.

Nursing Courses in Melbourne

A number of TAFE institutions, along with other vocational education providers, offer courses in Melbourne for students wishing to become assistants or Enrolled Nurses.

  • Box Hill Institute offers a Certificate III in Health Service Assistance as well as Certificate III courses in dental assistance, individual support (aged care), allied health assistance and health services pharmacy support. You can also do a Diploma of Nursing at Box Hill Institute.
  • Chisholm Institute of TAFE offers a Diploma of Nursing. Students can also study one of their Certificate III and IV courses in areas including Allied Health Assistance, Ageing Support, Sterilisation Services, Individual Support and Dental Assisting.

If you wish to enrol in a university course, you have several options. Most university courses focus on Bachelor's or Master's degrees required to register as a Registered Nurse or beyond, although many also offer Diploma and Certificate courses.

  • Swinburne University of Technology offers all qualification levels both online and on campus. Students can enrol in Certificate III or IV courses in Health Assistance, Disability or Individual Support, a Diploma of Nursing, a Bachelor of Nursing and Graduate Certificate courses in areas such as Forensic Mental Health Nursing.
  • The University of Melbourne features a graduate pathway degree of 5 years duration. This dual degree involves completion of a Bachelor's degree in any discipline, followed by a Master's of Nursing Science, and equips graduates with a Registered Nurse qualification. Entry requirements vary according to the Bachelor's degree chosen but tend to range from 85.00 to 94.00.
  • RMIT University offers a wide range of course options for diploma, graduate diploma, bachelor, master and PhD nursing studies.
  • Victoria University offers both TAFE and university learning. Students can enrol in a Certificate III in Health Services Assistance, a Diploma of Nursing or Emergency Health Care or a Bachelor of Nursing.
Can I study nursing at the University of Melbourne?
The University of Melbourne regularly ranks as the top university in Australia | Source: Pixabay - Kon Zografos

Nursing Courses at TAFE and University Throughout Australia

Nursing certificate and degree courses are fairly standard throughout Australia when it comes to content, nursing practice experience and qualification.

Courses are offered by TAFE institutions, universities and private education institutions. It is important, particularly with private education institutions, to ensure that the nursing courses they offer are approved by the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia. Without the endorsement of the board, students who think they are qualified nurses after they graduate may find they do not meet the criteria for the final registration process.

A good course will advertise that it is approved by the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia. If in doubt, students can clarify this directly with the board.

If you are looking to study at one of Australia's top universities for nursing, you should check out the courses available at the following 'Top 5' listings:

  • Number 5: Deakin University — ranked 29th globally, the university offers a range of bachelor's courses and double degree options
  • Number 4: University of Melbourne — ranked 26th globally
  • Number 3: Monash University — ranked 14th globally, the university offers a Bachelor of Nursing and Bachelor of Midwifery
  • Number 2: The University of Sydney — ranked 13th globally, students can study both Bachelor's and Master's degrees here in a top-class education environment
  • Number 1: University of Technology Sydney — ranked 7th globally, students can choose from a wide range of courses, from certificate to masters level.

Whichever path you choose to follow, the fact that you are moving into a compassionate, caring career is a huge plus. Yes, it's hard work. Yes, it's sometimes thankless. But ultimately it is rewarding to know you've helped another person in some way.

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Kellie

Kellie is an editor, a children's writer, blogger and a teacher. Any remaining time she has is spent on a dragon boat.