When it comes to the most important job roles in Australia, there is no doubt that nursing is among them. Although nurses have always been in demand, Australia’s rapidly aging population is causing that demand to skyrocket.

According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 4.2 million people are older than 65 years old in 2022. This is an age when many people begin to experience significant health issues and require extensive care. Over the next 10 years, the number of people in that age group will rapidly expand, leading to an even more burdened health system, with even higher demand for qualified nurses.

Australia’s health system is already stressed, and many nurses are burnt out, especially since the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic. While the combination of an aging population and burnout may not be a good thing, it does mean that unprecedented opportunities are available for senior nurses who have a postgraduate qualification like a Master of Nursing. There will likely be a need for many different types of nurses in Australia in the current healthcare landscape.

Types of nursing jobs

Nurses make up an essential part of the healthcare workforce, as they can perform a variety of roles from healthcare management to primary care. As such, there are many opportunities for nurses who want to take the next step in their career. Among these, five types of nursing jobs look particularly promising. These are:

  • Clinical nurse specialist
  • Clinical nurse consultant
  • Nurse manager
  • Nurse educator
  • Director of Nursing

1. Clinical nurse specialist

A clinical nurse specialist is a nurse who provides direct clinical care and is considered a clinical expert in their particular area of nursing – for example, a palliative care nurse specialist or a child and family nurse specialist.

Although the role of clinical nurse specialists differ, they are all required to provide a high level of care, maintain a high level of clinical knowledge and skills and actively contribute to their own professional development.

Job duties

Clinical nurse specialists perform the following tasks:

  • Provide high-level patient care related to their area of expertise, either themselves or by supervising other more junior staff.
  • Perform advanced patient health assessments and work with doctors and other medical staff to develop specialist treatment plans.
  • Develop nursing practices and procedures related to their area of expertise.
  • Develop educational material and providing education related to their specialist area to health care professionals and patients.
  • Make clinical recommendations on differential diagnoses.
  • Administer medication and treatments, in consultation with other medical staff.
  • Consult with patients and their families on how best to manage their conditions.
  • Stay up to date with emerging medicines and treatments and translate these into clinical practice where required.
  • Remain up to date with research related to their specialist area and translate that research into practice.

Skills required

The skills that employers are most often looking for in clinical nurse specialists are:

  • Nursing practice skills, including the ability to work with health teams to provide best-practice treatments.
  • Quality improvement skills, such as being able to put emerging clinical theory into practice and reform policies and procedures where required.
  • Aged care skills, which are increasingly important, regardless of specialisation, given Australia’s aging population.
  • Conflict resolution skills, such as the ability to work effectively with other nurses to provide continuity of patient care.
  • Person-centred patient care skills, which is the ability to place the person at the centre of all decisions.
  • Interpersonal sensitivity skills, like the ability to work with patients and their families in difficult situations.

Education requirements

Clinical nurse specialists must fulfill these requirements:

  1. All clinical nurse specialist roles in Australia require at least a Bachelor of Nursing.
  2. In order to practice in Australia, clinical nurse specialists must register with the Nursing and Midwifery Board and gain practical on-the-job experience of approximately 5,000 hours.
  3. Many clinical nurse specialist roles also require a postgraduate qualification such as a Graduate Certificate in Nursing, Graduate Diploma of Nursing or a Master of Nursing.

2. Clinical nurse consultant

A clinical nurse consultant is considered a specialist in their respective area, so much so that they may apply their skills and knowledge in advising other nurses as opposed to caring for patients directly.

A clinical nurse consultant may be engaged by a health services provider such as a hospital to examine a division or unit and advise on how to improve service levels, processes and the overall functioning of the unit.

Job duties

In terms of job duties, clinical nurse consultants perform the following:

  • Provide expert clinical advice to patients and other healthcare professionals within their defined speciality.
  • Facilitate, implement and manage care plans for their speciality or within a particular unit.
  • Develop specialised education resources for patients to be used by others in the healthcare community.
  • Provide clinical supervision for nurses within their speciality area.
  • Actively participate in the formation and review of nursing standards.
  • Initiate and supervise upskilling programs within their speciality.
  • Contribute to the strategic and operational running of a unit.

Skills required

The skills that are required to succeed as a clinical nurse consultant include:

  • Nursing practice skills, including being a specialist in the consultant’s field (which equates to at least five years of experience).
  • Clinical leadership skills, including the ability to work collaboratively within a multidisciplinary framework.
  • Exceptional communication and interpersonal skills.
  • The ability to develop evidence-based clinical practice standards.
  • The ability to contribute to strategic and clinical planning.
  • Teaching and mentoring skills.

Education requirements

Clinical nurse consultants must fulfill these requirements:

  1. All clinical nurse consultant roles in Australia require at least a Bachelor of Nursing.
  2. Clinical nurse consultants must also have at least five years’ full-time post-registration experience.
  3. Many clinical nurse consultant roles require a specialist postgraduate qualification in nursing, often as a master’s level.

3. Nurse manager

Nurse managers work in all healthcare settings, including hospitals, aged care facilities and outpatient clinics, and manage anywhere from a few nurses to up to 100. Nurse managers typically manage reporting, operational and financial tasks in addition to their personnel management responsibilities.

Nurse managers also have the important role of overseeing clinical practice and ensuring that the nurses they manage provide the highest level of patient care.

Job duties

Nurse managers may have numerous different responsibilities, depending on their seniority. Typically they do the following:

  • Develop and implement policies and procedures for nurses in their unit.
  • Coordinate staff rosters with the express aim of ensuring that nursing care is available to all patients, at all times.
  • Recruit, interview and onboard new nurses.
  • Manage budgets and financials for their unit.
  • Manage, evaluate, mentor and develop nurses, ensuring that they provide feedback to nurses and help them plan for their career progression.
  • Work collaboratively with multidisciplinary teams to achieve the best possible health outcomes for patients.
  • Stay abreast of nursing and healthcare developments.

Skills required

The skills that are required to succeed as a nurse manager include:

  • Expert communication skills, including being able to communicate clearly and concisely at all times.
  • The ability to effectively work within, and build, a team.
  • Decision-making skills, including the ability to be decisive in stressful situations.
  • Financial and operational skills to effectively create staff rosters and manage budgets.
  • The ability to contribute to strategic and clinical planning.
  • The ability to recruit, develop and mentor other nurses.

Education requirements

Nurse managers must fulfill these requirements:

  1. All nurse manager roles require at least a Bachelor of Nursing.
  2. Most nurse manager roles will also require a postgraduate qualification, for example, a Master of Nursing.
  3. Typically, nurse manager roles require between five and 10 years of on-the-job experience. Some may even require postgraduate business qualifications.

4. Nurse educator

The nurse educator is a teaching role. Nurse educators provide education for, and evaluation of, other nurses and patient care staff. In order to do so, they collaborate with medical practitioners to incorporate nursing processes into a plan of care for particular patient groups. They then educate others on their specialised knowledge, and turn this knowledge into actionable policies, processes and guidelines.

Job duties

Nurse educators typically perform the following tasks:

  • Provide educational leadership to nurses to enhance specialist patient care.
  • Educate patients and caregivers, solve problems and provide overall health management.
  • Collaborate with medical providers, patients and staff to plan, implement and deliver evidence-based education curricula.
  • Research and create skill development programs based on established care models.
  • Develop evidence-based care plans, standards, policies and procedures.
  • Educate technical and patient care staff on new equipment and supplies.
  • Ensure the proper care and maintenance of equipment and supplies.

Skills required

The skills that are required to succeed as a nurse educator include:

  • Expert-level knowledge of nursing practice, processes and procedures.
  • The ability to provide operational guidance and leadership in their specialist area.
  • Learning design skills, including the ability to design and develop a curriculum.
  • Teaching and mentoring skills.
  • The ability to plan, implement and evaluate a patient care program.
  • Exceptional verbal, written and interpersonal communication skills.

Education requirements

Becoming a nurse educator requires the following:

  1. All nurse educator roles require at least a Bachelor of Nursing.
  2. Most nurse educator roles will also require a postgraduate qualification such as a Master of Nursing.

5. Director of Nursing

Directors of Nursing hold senior leadership roles and play a key executive function. Directors of Nursing manage teams of nurses in hospitals, aged care facilities and medical clinics. They are responsible for setting the strategic direction for nursing within their organisations, as well as managing many important operational and administrative functions.

Directors of Nursing ensure that a high standard of patient care is executed by all nurses, and are responsible for upholding standards, including creating training programs and managing a large number of staff.

Job duties

The responsibilities of Directors of Nursing may vary, depending on the size of the healthcare facility where they work. Typically, the larger the facility, the more likely it is that they will take on more strategic and managerial responsibilities, and step away from everyday clinical practice.

Directors of Nursing are required to do the following:

  • Recruit, onboard, train and provide ongoing development opportunities for a large staff.
  • Oversee budgets, including managing important business financials.
  • Manage patient data and records while upholding security and privacy standards.
  • Make strategic decisions about patient care standards, as well create policies, procedures and practices to ensure best-practice clinical care.
  • Act as the point of contact between nurses and other medical professionals, including other departments within a healthcare facility.
  • Oversee the coordination of nursing rosters to ensure complete coverage for patients.
  • Keep up to date with clinical practice developments and ensure that they are translated into patient care standards.

Skills required

Directors of Nursing require a large number of leadership and management skills to succeed in addition to the standard practice-related skills that all nurses must have. Directors of Nursing should have the following skills:

  • Leadership skills, including the ability to engage nurses and establish quality-of-care standards to ensure optimal patient outcomes.
  • High emotional intelligence to manage conflict between nurses or conflict among nurses, patients and families.
  • Accountability to legislation and standards for themselves and others.
  • Compassion toward staff.
  • A high level of clinical expertise.
  • Exceptional verbal, written and interpersonal communication skills.
  • A high level of professionalism and flexibility.

Education requirements

Directors of Nursing must fulfill these requirements:

  1. All Director of Nursing roles require at least a Bachelor of Nursing.
  2. As senior roles, Director of Nursing roles usually require at least 10 years of experience.
  3. Director of Nursing roles usually require a postgraduate qualification, such as a Master of Nursing.

How to choose which type of nurse job is right for you

Ultimately, deciding which type of nursing career you want depends on what type of role and duties you’d like to have. For example, some roles such as a director of nursing require more administrative tasks and skills, while a clinical nurse specialist will focus more on patient care and a nurse educator will primarily teach other nurses. You should consider your skills and professional goals before deciding how you’d like your nursing career to advance.

Take advantage of nursing career opportunities

Over the next five years, the number and types of nurses in Australia will skyrocket. For many nurses, there will be ample opportunities to grow, develop and take on more professional responsibilities. From a career perspective, there has never been a more exciting time to be a nurse.

Nurses who invest in their professional education have the best chance to secure the highest-paying, most interesting and, ultimately, most rewarding positions.

If you are a registered nurse ready to expand your career opportunities, the Master of Nursing with JCU Online offers three specialisations in Leadership and Management, Advanced Practice and Education. As one of Australia’s top 10 nurse educators, JCU can help you progress your nursing career and unlock new opportunities. Reach out to one of our Student Enrolment Advisors today on 1300 535 919 or email learn@online.jcu.edu.au.


Find out more about JCU’s online Master of Nursing.

Get in touch with our Enrolment team on 1300 535 919

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