By Jenna Hoyt BSN, RN
When I first decided I wanted to work as a nurse in Australia I was completely overwhelmed by the whole process. You need letters from every previous employer, certified copies of pretty much every form of ID, a letter from each board of nursing you’re registered with (a nightmare for Californians), and college transcripts with in depth descriptions of each course. On top of that, you need to apply for a visa, figure out where to live, get an Australian bank account, get health insurance and a new phone plan. Oh… and finding work is important too.
I know all of that doesn’t sound very appealing, but there are resources out there to help and TONS of people who have done the exact same thing. The resource that I found most helpful is a Facebook group called “Working Holiday Nurses Down Under.” It’s exactly what it sounds like – a group of nurses, mostly from the UK, Ireland or America, who are working or trying to work in Australia. People share their experiences on there and you can ask questions if you are stuck on any part of the process. This has remained a helpful tool throughout my stay in Australia to navigate all the different aspects of working here.
There are a few different ways to get work as a nurse here, but most people start out working through an agency or on a casual pool. You are employed on a casual basis and with agency you can work at many different hospitals, whereas the casual pool is tied to a specific hospital. Working as a casual RN is really good if you want to travel around and not work a lot. There are no minimum hours and you can turn down shifts if you don’t want them. The problem with casual employment, though, is that you may not get much work at all. The hospital can cancel you up to four hours before your shift so you have to be really flexible if you really want work. When I first came to Australia I was having a hard time getting any work, but once you go to the same unit a few times, and they learn who you are, they start requesting you personally.
As for the work itself…well, there is a bit of a learning curve. For starters, the lingo is different. I remember my first day of work someone was showing me where the “resus trolley” was. I had no idea they were talking about the code cart. Being a NICU nurse, I still laugh when someone refers to a nipple of a bottle as a “teat.”
The patient care is very similar to what I’ve experienced in the United States, but of course some policies and procedures vary slightly. One of the biggest differences is the lack of electronic charting here. Some facilities have EMR, but most are still on paper charting. Something else that came as a bit of a shock was the process of giving medications. I worked at a large hospital back home, so pharmacists were in house 24/7 and would send you pre-filled syringes of your medication with the exact dose for your patient. Here in Australia nurses mix all of our own antibiotics, and prepare all other medications. It adds more pressure to the nurses to ensure everything is prepared correctly, but it has been a great learning experience.
Overall, the process to work in Australia is tedious, but worth it. There are some differences in the work, but the nurses are helpful and there are many support systems available. I highly recommend travel nursing in Australia, a once in a lifetime opportunity for those with the travel bug.
Have any questions about nursing in Australia? Comment below.