Types of nursing careers

There are so many options available to you when you choose nursing as a career.

In addition to the huge number of hospital nursing pathways, there are opportunities to work in a wide variety of settings within the community – including private clinics, aged care facilities, the Defence Forces, schools, industrial sites, remote areas and many more.

Here is a breakdown of just some of the types of nursing careers out there.

Registered Nurse (RN):

Registered Nurses are university-qualified nurses who are registered and licensed by the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia (NMBA).

To become a Registered Nurse you need to complete a Bachelor of Nursing (usually three years full-time) or a Master of Nursing (a graduate entry, two-year degree for people with previous tertiary qualifications who wish to become an RN).

As a qualified RN you have the opportunity to further your career in a diverse range of clinical specialities and settings. There are also opportunities for RNs to move into education, research or management roles.

Areas of specialisation for Registered Nurses:

As an RN you might choose to specialise in:

Aged Care / Gerontic Nursing:

Care for elderly people in a range of settings, including the community, hospitals, rehabilitation units and residential care facilities. As an Aged Care Nurse you will specialise in age-specific health problems, including the assessment and management of various chronic conditions and diseases.

Emergency Nursing:

Care for patients in an emergency situation or a critical phase of illness or trauma. Emergency Nurses work in hospital emergency departments and treat the broadest range of injuries, illness and trauma.

Mental Health Nursing:

Care for people suffering from mental health conditions. Mental Health Nurses work with individuals, families, groups and communities to assess mental health needs, develop diagnoses, and plan, implement and evaluate appropriate nursing care. Mental Health Nurses can work in a wide variety of settings, such as hospitals, community-based or home-care programs, prisons, schools, and various mental health agencies.

Oncology Nursing:

Provide care, support and education, not only to people with cancer, but also to their families and friends. Oncology Nurses guide patients who are experiencing, or are at risk of developing cancer, through counselling for cancer prevention and screening processes. They also provide acute care right through to rehabilitation or palliative care if necessary.

Peri-operative Nursing:

Assist with surgical procedures. Also provide care for and support patients before and after surgery.

Paediatric Nursing:

Provide care to children of all ages, from newborns to adolescents and their families. As a Paediatric Nurse you will care for the physical, emotional and social aspects of health and illness in your patients, and also provide education and health promotion for disease prevention.

Rural & Remote Area Nursing:

Work individually or in a small team to provide health care to populations in geographically isolated areas. Remote Area Nurses often work without immediate access to doctors, and provide 24-hour, on-call emergency service.

Palliative Care Nursing:

Attend to the needs of patients and their families who face terminal illness and bereavement. Palliative Care Nursing is different from other nursing in that it is dedicated almost exclusively to caring for dying patients. This is one of the most emotionally demanding types of nursing, often involving around-the-clock availability, expert management of pain and other symptoms, and intensive family support.

Intensive Care / Critical Care Nursing:

Critical Care Nurses work in highly technological areas, such as intensive care and coronary care units, where they care for acutely and critically ill patients of all ages and diagnoses, often on a one-to-one basis.


The term midwifery means “with woman”. A midwife works in partnership with women to give the necessary support, care and advice during pregnancy, labour, birth, and the postnatal period. Most midwifes are licensed Registered Nurses who have additional midwifery qualifications.

There are two pathways to becoming a registered midwife. One is to complete a Bachelor of Nursing course at university and then to complete additional postgraduate studies in Midwifery. The other is to complete a dedicated Bachelor of Midwifery course.

Midwives work in a wide variety of settings, including the home, maternity units in public and private hospitals, postnatal and neonatal units, community-based health services, birth centres, and antenatal clinics.

Midwives also play an important role in health counselling and education, not only for the woman, but also within the family and the broader community. This includes antenatal education and preparation for parenthood, and may extend to women’s health, sexual and reproductive health.

Agency nurse:

An agency nurse is different to a nurse who holds a permanent position in the one hospital. An agency nurse is a qualified nurse who takes on different positions and shifts through an agency like Best Practice Nursing. As an agency nurse, you could find yourself working in one hospital one day, and another one the very next.

Agency nursing offers great flexibility in terms of working hours. As an agency nurse, you can sign up for as much or as little work as you like, and choose the working hours that best suit your lifestyle. You are able to organise your shifts around your family, study and other commitments, and can choose to work on a casual, part time, or full time basis. Agency nursing is also a great way to network and get valuable experience in a range of different nursing environments.

Enrolled Nurse (EN) and Endorsed Enrolled Nurse (EEN):

Enrolled Nurses are Diploma-qualified nurses. To become an EN you need to complete an approved Diploma of Nursing program through TAFE or another accredited course provider.

Under the provisions of the NMBA, Enrolled Nurses generally work under the authority and direction of a Registered Nurse. This doesn’t mean that Enrolled Nurses aren’t an invaluable contributor to patient care, but there are certain tasks that Enrolled Nurses cannot do unless they are under the direct supervision of a Registered Nurse.

Medication Endorsed Enrolled Nurses (EENs) are Enrolled Nurses that have undertaken additional training that then allows them to administer medications.

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