Nursing in Oz: a travellers dream job.

Australia is a very popular expat destination with lots of opportunities for work and travel. I headed off from Ireland, a disillusioned nurse, ready to embark on a big adventure. I had an overwhelming excitement to try something new so began with a call centre role selling life insurance, a bar pulling pints, then a traffic controller manning the roads. I soon saw sense and reverted back to what I knew best – Nursing.

To work in Australia you need to obtain a valid (12 month) 417 working holiday visa. Those over 35 need to look at sponsorship or residency. The country clearly has its attractions, beautiful weather, stunning beaches and an infamous laid back lifestyle.

I began work as a carer with ‘24/7 Nursing’, an Irish run nursing agency while I waited for my nursing registration to be processed. There are many nursing agencies to choose from with 24/7 nursing, Allianz and Healthcare Australia being the most popular. This opened my eyes to a whole new world of nursing, with so many opportunities to work in a variety of settings within the community, private clinics, aged care facilities, the Defence Forces, home care, schools, prisons, industrial sites, regional remote areas and much more. It’s a very versatile career for those who wish to utilise their skills and experience and incorporate it with travel.

Being an agency nurse allowed me to work in different departments, expanding my experience across a range of areas. No need to worry about office politics, and can focus on the job at hand, learn new skills and enjoy new experiences. It was definitely a sink or swim situation, changing wards, departments, hospitals and colleagues constantly which meant I was most certainly thrown in at the deep end and I learnt to swim pretty quickly.

As an agency nurse, I was free to choose shifts, days, nights, weekdays or weekends, it was entirely my choice and I  controlled my own roster.  Working for an agency I earned more than most permanent positions paid. The majority of agencies paid above award wages for all shifts, so I was guaranteed to earn good money towards my next adventure.

Depending on where you work the workload differs. In a public hospital setting there would generally be one nurse to a maximum of five patients and a private hospital one to six. The shifts vary depending on where you work. Night shifts are generally 10-12 hours long. The days shifts are split between morning and evening, both 7-8 hours long. The beauty about agency was that I could work as little or as often as i liked, no need to request annual leave.

It is important to take into account that there are quiet periods of work throughout the year for agency nurses. Christmas time is particularly quiet, surgeons go on leave this time of year effectecting the amount of elective surgeries, and this in turn decreases the need for agency staff. This is most prominent in private hospitals, whereas public hospitals and home care tend to have more available shifts. Be mindful to save money for this time of the year or use it to your advantage and plan to travel/ holiday. Regional nursing is becoming increasingly popular and could also be explored during these quieter periods, and can be used as an excuse to see new places and learn new skills.

It’s important to have vaccination documentation up to date in keeping with Irish requirements. In order to work in a public hospital it is mandatory to have the pertussis vaccination, many agencies offer this service, however it can be easily obtained in Ireland before your departure and will be cheaper.

Nursing Registration:

Australia has a National Registration And Accreditation Scheme run by the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia. The Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) supports the National Boards to implement the National Scheme. There are AHPRA offices in each state and territory of Australia. Gathering all the information provided can be a lengthy process and many people underestimate the time involved requesting and waiting for documentation to be provided from third parties.

Information required:

A signed and dated Cirriculum Vitae that describes your full practice history. You must declare on your CV that the ‘cirriculum vitae’ is true and correct as (insert date) and the declaration must be signed and dated. The Boards will only accept the original signed CV. You must also attach certified copies of any results or courses undertaken, competencies or skills assessments that have been stated in the CV.

You must also include a Statement of Service from all of your employers from the last five years. This statement is required to be on the employer’s letterhead, provide dates of employment, describe the role in which you were employed and state the hours worked and it must be signed by a manager.

You will need to apply for your transcripts from university as soon as possible as they take a considerable amount of time to be organised. Apply for an International Criminal History Check and make sure to use the link provided inside the AHPRA application. In terms of proof of identity I used my passport, Gardai ID and a bank statement. You will also need to get your degree translated to English.

Keep in mind that every document that is not an original needs to be certified. Peace commissioners in Ireland cannot certify documents and many get lawyers to certify on their behalf. Refer to the back page of the application form for more information on certifying documents. It will save time and potentially money if you get all your documents in order and certified at the same time. If you are applying within Australia a Justice of the Peace will suffice and does not cost.

Certificate of Registration Status or Certificate of Good Standing is required. AHPRA stipulates that the supporting documentation must come straight from the source. eg. If you’ve been registered in Ireland or England you must arrange for original Certificates of Good Standing or Certificates of Registration Status to be directly forwarded from the registration authority to your chosen AHPRA office.

When your application is ready and you’ve double checked and triple checked it, don’t forget to take into account the postage time for it to travel to the other side of the world. Most definitely send it by registered post so you can keep track of it’s whereabouts. You also need to take into account the time it may take them to notify you if there is any missing information, the time it will take you to source the missing information and for it to then be processed.

Once your application is successfully approved you’ll receive a letter providing ‘in principle approval for registration’ which is valid for three months only. This means that you need to present in person with proof of your identity before you are granted your final registration.

Like any organisation, AHPRA does not always run smoothly. Occasionally delays are experienced. I was waiting quite a while for my International Criminal History Check to come through from an approved vendor. As a general rule AHPRA advise that the standard timeframe  of a complete application from overseas is 4-6 weeks. Keep in touch with the office and check your emails regularly.

Australia is looking for nurses of all specialities. There’s no better time to grab your fob watch and your bikini and head to oz. I am grateful that I chose nursing as my career as it has afforded me the opportunity to travel and earn money while experiencing new and exciting adventures along the way.