How to become a clinical nurse: Australian careers in nursing

Clinical nursing is a vital senior role, particularly working within the critical care sector of nursing, which requires post-graduate qualifications. There are five critical components to the role: clinical practice, research, teaching, consulting and management. Clinical nurses are responsible for a higher-level of patient care and decision-making, working in specialised areas of medicine. Within their specialty, clinical nurses are expected to analyse and interpret medical data and are required to identify, understand, observe, diagnose, and analyse complex clinical health problems. Your ultimate career goals and the environment in which you would like to work will determine the training and education pathways you will need to undertake.

  • Task Career in focus: What a clinical nurse does

    A clinical nurse will usually treat patients in a wide variety of wards but are mostly found in critical care. Clinical nurses will chose a specialisation by the population they treat, the setting they work in or the disease they are targeting. For example, a critical nurse could choose to work in oncology, gynaecology or as part of an emergency room unit. As a senior member of the nursing staff, there is a high level of responsibility and an expectation that you will be able to work without supervision, be able to make quick, sound decisions and above all, provide high quality patient care and advocacy. Daily duties may include clinically and professionally monitoring patients for changes in their condition, creating and implementing treatment plans, communicating with doctors and promoting general health awareness. Clinical nurses are seen as a valuable resource to other nurses and health professionals, and as well as providing specialty insight, they may also be required to mentor graduate nurses. 

    Tasks:

    • Clinical decision making
    • Facility administration
    • Analysis and interpretation of clinical data
    • Staff and facility management
    • Conducting physical exams
  • Skills Core qualities: Skills to succeed as a clinical nurse

    A clinical nurse needs to be passionate and dedicated to their speciality and be able to deal with seriously ill or injured patients. Being able to continually learn and expand your specific knowledge and helping those in serious health conditions is challenging and rewarding for someone who doesn’t shy away from hard work and is naturally compassionate. Clinical nurses treat a wide range of patients and perform tasks as diverse as basic wellness assessments to mental health assessments and neuroscience. As they are responsible for distributing sometimes complex information to a wide-range of different people such as medical staff, patients and their families and the general public, a clinical nurse must able to alter their communication style and language to suit their audience.

    Skills/attributes
    • Caring nature
    • Leadership skills
    • Problem solving skills
    • Organisational and administrative abilities
    • Decision making skills
  • Specialisations The field: Specialisations within nursing

    Clinical nursing is a highly specialised field of nursing and there are many different study options that will allow you to tailor your career path to work in a field you a passionate about. Below are some popular clinical nursing careers:

    Child/Adolescent Psychological and Mental Health

    If you are passionate about the mental health of our next generation, you can start a career working with young children and teens with psychological and mental health issues. As a child and adolescent psychological and mental health clinical nurse, you will need to have been a registered nurses (RN) who has successfully completed post-graduate mental health studies. You will assess young people as well as talking with their families, making comprehensive diagnoses and creating treatment plans. The role reports to a Mental Health Team Manager.

    Diabetes Management

    One in five Australians develops a form of diabetes each day, which makes a specialisation in diabetes management an important one. To become a clinical nurse that specialises in this area, you will need to be a registered nurse (RN) who has successfully completed post-graduate requirements with a Graduate Certificate of Diabetes Education. There a wide-range of roles you can work in that include working as a diabetes educator or with the Australian Diabetes Educators Association (ADEA). They also work to educate patients and the public about diabetes and the importance of prevention and/or treatment.

    Gerontology

    As Australia is part of an aging population, there are many career pathways available in gerontology and rehabilitation to help those in age care. To become a gerontology clinical nurse and to work in aged care, you must be a registered nurse (RN) with post-graduate qualifications in gerontology and rehabilitation studies. A career in gerontology can be very rewarding, helping aged care patients and their families physically, emotionally and recreationally. Clinicians may work in senior clinical management, family care, and aged care facilities. Their skillset may include occupational therapy, physiotherapy, social work and dementia care. 

    Paediatrics

    Helping infants, children and adolescents as a clinical nurse means you will be helping to shape our young generation emotionally and physically. A paediatric clinical nurse is a registered nurse (RN) who has completed a Graduate Certificate in paediatric nursing and is qualified to work in hospitals, community centres and clinics. Clinical paediatric nurses provide direct medical care for injured or ill children and also support their families. 

    Public and Community Health

    Working in public and community health is diverse, unpredictable and will challenge your knowledge and experience. You can chose to work in a range of different places like hospitals, community homes and the private sector, caring for the needs of a diverse range of patients. The role’s key functions are health promotion and preventative health, disease management, treatment and care.

  • Pathways The right track: Find study options for becoming a clinical nurse

    There are opportunities for employment in the nursing industry at every level, from entry-level jobs requiring vocational training to specialised study for those pursuing high-level roles within the healthcare system.

    Starting Out

    These vocational courses will allow you to join the nursing profession in an entry-level role, such as Enrolled Nurse, requiring supervision from senior staff.

    Building Skills

    Study for career advancement. Qualify as a Registered Nurse or pursue a career specialisation.

    Developing Your Resume

    If you want to be promoted to high-level employment, these study options will help you advance your career, requiring extensive qualification or specialisation in a particular nursing field.

    Industry Recognition

    Nurses in Australia are required to register with the Nursing and Midwifery Board after completing their professional accreditation. Find out more about the professional requirements of the nursing industry in the Resources section.

    Entering the Workforce

    Put your training to good use and get the best professional head start in your nursing career. Take a look at our sample resume and cover letter and put your best foot forward when you apply for health service jobs.

    Job prospects in nursing: Working life as a clinical nurse

    With our aging population, Australia is experiencing a shortage of nursing staff. Professional opportunities are available at all levels and accredited nurses are highly sought after in remote and metropolitan areas nationwide. 

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