Being a nurse is a huge responsibility. Nursing is all about caring for other people who are in need. You will commonly find nurses in hospitals, clinics, aged care homes – but there are also a number of other places you may come across them too.

Nurses bring order to chaos, speak up for the vulnerable and work with people at times of suffering. It is still one of the most trusted professions.

Everyone at some point in their life has been cared for by a nurse. Whether it was when they were a baby, during a pregnancy, or during their final years of life.

Everyone has suffered with some sort of injury or illness – and no doubt a nurse was there to care for them.

But when talking about nurses, what people who aren’t in the healthcare sector may not realise is that there are different kinds of nurses.

In Australia, there 7 different kinds of nurses – each with their own speciality and qualifications.  

Registered Nurse

Registered nurses are regulated by the Nurses and Midwives Board and are registered and licensed under the appropriate Nursing Act. They hold a higher level of responsibility and accountability than other nursing roles.

Registered nurses are often given the role and duties of a unit manager, team leaders, or administrator. Their responsibilities may include, but aren’t exclusive to, medication administration, assessment and management of patients and complex or specialised nursing care.

The national competency standards allow registered nurses more responsibilities and autonomy in their practice than other kinds of nurses.

Enrolled Nurse

Enrolled nurses are a second level nurse who works under the supervision of a registered nurse. However, this supervision may can be either direct or indirect – depending on the enrolled nurse’s responsibilities.

However, despite this supervision, enrolled nurses are responsible for their actions and are fully accountable for providing nursing care.

The tasks that are delegated to enrolled nurses can vary depending on where they work. However, they may include observing, measuring and recording patients’ temperature, pulse, respiration, blood pressure and blood sugar levels – and report changes in patient’s condition to doctors, assisting in hygiene and comfort, assisting in first aid and emergency situations.

An enrolled nurse has typically trained in Diploma in Enrolled Nursing – which is achieved during an 18 month or 2 year course at TAFE.

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Assistant In Nursing

An assistant in nursing are technically not nurses. However, AINs perform nursing duties under the direction and supervision of a registered nurse.

AINs tasks, depending on where they work, can include duties such as assisting with personal hygiene, showering and toileting, repositioning them in bed or assistance in mobility.

Assistants in Nursing go by other names, such as aged care worker, personal care assistant, care support employees or health services assistance, depending on where and which sector they work.

AINs normally have a TAFE qualification – Assistant in Nursing Certificate III Acute Care or  Certificate III in Aged Care – or some proof of current studies towards becoming an enrolled or registered nurse.

Clinical Nurse

Clinical nurses are registered nurses, holding all the same responsibilities.

However the difference is that they have undertaken additional studies in a specialised areas and have worked in that field for a number of years.

Because of the extra education – as well as leadership, portfolio work and quality activities, the clinical nurse is often the resource person for other registered nurses in their workplace.

Clinical nurses use of advanced knowledge when planning patient care, perform of advanced clinical skills and can act as a role model and takes an active role in teaching less experienced staff.

Midwife

Most people are aware that midwives are health professionals that work with women to give the necessary support, care and advice during pregnancy, labour and the postpartum period.

Midwives also hold the responsibility of conducting births and providing care for the newborn after birth, and are given quite a large degree of autonomy. They are also equipped with the ability to detect complications, and to carry our emergency measure that can occur in childbirth.

They have specialised education and are licensed under the appropriate Nursing Act to practise midwifery in Australia.

Most midwives are also licensed registered nurses who have additional midwifery qualifications.

Midwives also have the responsibility of health counselling and education, not only for the woman, but also within the family and the community.

Nurse Practitioner

Nurse practitioners are registered nurses who have been authorised to function autonomously and collaboratively in an advanced and extended clinical role.

A nurse practitioner requires further education, typically 1.5-2 years of additional study, as well as other qualification, such as a current practising certificate, a minimum of 3 years post-registration experience in a specialty area, and a completed and signed ‘Clinical Support’ form as evidence that their employer is willing to facilitate the extended clinical practice components of the course within their workplace.

The nurse practitioner role is based on the nursing profession’s values, knowledge, theories and practise and provides innovative and flexible health care delivery that complements other health care providers.

Nurse practitioners also have the unique role of direct referral of patients to other healthcare professionals, prescribing medications, and ordering diagnostic investigations.

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