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Should you become a nurse practitioner in Australia?

James Davis

Careers Commentator
A rewarding career awaits those with the knowledge and dedication to help others. As a nurse practitioner, you could make a world of difference.

In this article, we’ll cover some details, including:

  • What is a nurse practitioner and what do they do?
  • Why become a nurse practitioner?
  • How do you become a nurse practitioner?
  • Closing advice

Let’s get going.

What is a nurse practitioner and what do they do?

Nurse practitioners are generalists and specialists administering healthcare to underserved populations and regions. They can prescribe medications, make diagnoses, develop health plans, make educated health assessments and fill gaps in demand registered nurses or doctors otherwise struggle with. Careers are therefore quite diverse between practitioners, with some working in aged care, private practice or mental health and others in paediatrics, rural or regional health centres.

Why become a nurse practitioner?

Becoming a nurse practitioner is an excellent way to advance an existing nursing career. It provides opportunities to gain greater expertise in current areas of practice. It’s also a chance to make even more of a difference by working in underserved communities. The Australian College of Nurse Practitioners (ACNP) stresses the value practitioners provide to at-risk populations across the country, as well as being an accessible source of treatment. If you’re a registered nurse looking to advance your career and make even more of a difference, embarking on this path could be a life-affirming experience.

How do you become a nurse practitioner?

All nurse practitioners must meet endorsement criteria established by the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia (NMBA). This means:

A. Have a master’s degree

B. Have at least three years of nursing experience as a registered nurse (completed within the last six years)

We have a variety of eligible courses on display here. Make sure to choose one that includes “nurse practitioner” as the major, making sure it’s approved by the NMBA as suitable for registration as a nurse practitioner rather than merely registered nurse. Some great programs include:

All of these will require you to complete your professional experience prior to commencement, taking one and a half to two years of full time study to complete. Part time options are available. Note that some of these courses will also require more professional experience than the minimum, in addition to other education requirements. USYD’s offering is an example of this, requiring some applicants to have completed five years of professional experience, three of which must be in the discipline of their choosing. Exactly what admission requirements apply to you varies between institutions and backgrounds, so read and enquire carefully before applying. Having three years of professional experience as a registered nurse should suffice in many cases however.

If you’re still looking for a job as a registered nurse, we’ve written a detailed guide on it here.

Closing advice

Master level nurse practitioner qualifications are some of the most practical and valued by the government, meaning you should be able to find commonwealth supported places to help fund your study. Even if you can’t, there are a plethora of funding opportunities available. In addition to the scholarships we display on our site here, the ACNP provides scholarships and awards to its members. Associate membership is available to registered nurses prior to any nurse practitioner qualifications, and provides numerous benefits like networking opportunities, journals, education events and exclusive online forums. This is a great way to learn more about the profession and choose a specialisation.

It’s not mandatory to become a nurse practitioner if you’re comfortable as a registered nurse. If you’re someone who enjoys independence and see yourself opening your own practice one day, it’s definitely worth considering though. If you’re not someone who’s prepared to live in remote or underserved locations, it may not be the ideal fit. It pays to consider yours, your partner or your family’s life goals before committing. That said, you should now be more informed as to what making this decision entails. We have great confidence that no matter where you go, you’ll continue employing your passion for the benefit of others. Good luck!