Australia is predicted to need 109,000 extra nurses and midwives – along with 2,700 doctors – by 2025, according to Health Workforce Australia. With glorious beaches, stunning weather and an enviable outdoors lifestyle, it’s no wonder Brits are tempted by a new life Down Under. If you fancy swapping Manchester for Melbourne or Swindon for Sydney, read on for our guide to nursing in Australia.
Pay and working conditions
As well as lifestyle benefits, nurses heading to Australia find that the country offers excellent career prospects and working conditions.
‘Most ex-pats find the pressures are less in Australia, with fewer targets and demands from managers, compared to the NHS. Staffing levels in hospitals are much higher (mandatory nurse: patient ratios have been in place in the state of Victoria for many years) allowing nurses more time to focus on patient care,’ says Miles Cue, Executive Director of Mediserve (http://www.mediserve.com.au/) which places nursing and carer staff across Australia.
‘Added to that, the holiday allowance is generous, training opportunities are good and the pay is favourable compared to the UK.’
Nursing salaries in Australia differ from state to state and, like the UK, are depend on your grade and level of experience. You can see a guide to pay rates by state/job type here.
Nursing opportunities in Oz
There is currently high demand for nurses and midwives in all specialisms in both the public and private sectors in Australia.
‘Qualified nurses who have at least two years’ experience are required in all of the main cities. While most nurses from the UK are positioned in large teaching hospitals within urban settings, there are opportunities to work in rural and outback hospitals. These Area of Need positions often offer higher salaries as an extra incentive,’ says Miles.
Recent figures show that New South Wales have the biggest nursing population as a whole and the biggest shortage of nurses in Australia, while Queensland has the biggest intake of overseas Registered Nurses coming to the country on a Temporary Business 457 visa.
Applying to work in Australia
There are three main options for British Registered Nurses (RNs) wanting to work in Australia: 1) apply to emigrate permanently as a skilled migrant, 2) live and work there on a temporary visa, and 3) for those aged between 18 and 30, visit on a working holiday visa.
Internationally qualified nurses can apply for permanent entry into Australia through the Employer Nomination Scheme and the Regional Sponsored Migration Program. These applications are processed through the Department of Immigration and Citizenship. Both schemes are open to qualified and experienced nurses aged under 50, with sponsorship by an employer.
Temporary Employment Visa (457)
If you want to sample life in Australia without making the commitment to emigrate permanently, or are not eligible for permanent residency, the 457 Temporary Employment Visa allows you to work in the country for a maximum of four years, with continued sponsorship from an approved employer. Your accompanying family members are allowed to work and study in Australia under the scheme.
Working Holiday Visa (417)
If you are aged between 18 and 30, you can apply for a working holiday visa. This allows you to stay for up to 12 months and work as a nurse with any one employer for a maximum of six months, provided your work remains incidental to your holidays.
Those wanting to improve their skills can apply for an Occupational Trainee visa, which allows you to complete structured and supervised workplace-based training programmes or academic research on a temporary basis. A student visa is open to students undertaking a registered nursing course in Australia.
Registering as a nurse with the AHPRA
Just as you are required to register with the NMC to work as a nurse in the UK, in Australia you are required to get AHPRA (Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency) registration. Information and guidance on registration for overseas Nursescan be found on the AHPRA website.
You must lodge your application for registration, and supporting documentation, by post or in person at an AHPRA office in the state or territory in which you plan to live and work. Details of the eight regional AHPRA offices are available on the AHPRA website. If you later want to move state/territory, recent changes to the rules mean you no longer have to re-register.
Applicants intending to work as (or studying to be) a doctor, dentist, nurse or paramedic are required to undergo a chest x-ray and medical examination as well as HIV, Hepatitis B and C testing to work in the Australian Health service.
English language proficiency
As an overseas nurse, you must prove that you are proficient in the English language before your skills assessment or visa can be granted, which means you must obtain your English language test results before lodging your application.
To demonstrate English language proficiency you can take either the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) or the Occupational English Test (OET). You will find nursing and midwifery English Language Skills guidance on the AHPRA website.
Finding a job
Once you are confident that you can obtain both your nursing registration and you are eligible for a visa, you can start applying for jobs. As visa requirements and application procedures can be complex, many nurses prefer to go through an employment agency, such as Mediserve, which places hundreds of British nurses in Australia every year.
‘Whether your intention is to travel and work your way around Australia or find sponsorship, we can help you find the right job in the location, and can advise on visas and help arrange your travel and accommodation needs,’ says Miles.
‘The sooner you sort out the practicalities, the sooner you can start enjoying your new life and experiencing all the sights of Australia.’
Image copyright by photodune