Work It Out: What It’s Really Like To Be a Nurse in Australia

Work It Out: What It’s Really Like To Be a Nurse in Australia

According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, nurses and midwives make up the “largest group of registered health professionals in Australia, at about 334,000 registered in 2018”. That makes up about 57 per cent of all registered health professionals in the country.

Recent data from SEEK Career Advice indicates that the average salary for a nurse in Australia is between $65,000 – $75,000. But aside from comments about nurses being a vital part of our community, and disbelief at the shift work we understand some must grow accustomed to (up to 12-hour shifts for days at a time), how much about this profession do we really know?

According to research completed by the team at SEEK (by interviewing 4,800 Australians), only nine per cent of Australians would consider a job in nursing because of “unappealing tasks” and “difficult patients”. Additionally, 52 per cent of respondents believe the most important skill for a career in this industry is empathy.

Work it Out is a new series we’re rolling out across Lifehacker Australia in an effort to highlight jobs that tend to have misconceptions attached to them. In this first piece for the series, we spoke with Archie Parafina – an Australian nurse and TikTok personality – over email and asked him to share some insights into the nursing industry in Australia.


That’s a funny joke! 😅 #nurselife #studentnurse #nursesoftiktok #nursearchie #aussietok #fyp #fypシ #4up #goviral

♬ original sound – Gil & Berna❤️‍🔥

Work it Out: Nursing

What are the best parts of your job?

What I love most about being a nurse is having the opportunity to impact lives positively and make a difference — whether it’s on my patients, colleagues, students or anyone I meet, it really gives me a sense of fulfilment.

What are the worst parts of your job?

There aren’t any parts of my job that I don’t like. However, I am currently at the stage in my career where I’m starting to question if shift work is the best type of work for me. Luckily, there are a lot of nursing roles that don’t require shift work.

Can you walk us through a day in your life as a nurse? (Hours, standard tasks, challenges etc.)

In 2014, I graduated and received my Australian Nursing Registration. Beginning my Australian nursing career, I started as a nurse in a medical practice before landing a job in a hospital as a registered nurse. After five years in Australia, I engaged in travel nursing work – exploring the country’s rural areas along the way. When COVID struck, I needed to return to Sydney to work in my base hospital. Recently, and much to my excitement, I have been hired as a casual nursing teacher.

The day to day on the ward varies, however, overall the general task for each shift is taking care of a group of patients.

I normally work with another nurse and we start our shift with 10 patients, all with different needs. Our standard tasks include monitoring vital signs, providing personal care, giving out medication, liaising patients’ procedures, discharging and admitting new patients, coordinating with other members of the healthcare team and other tasks such as answering ward phone calls and updating patients’ family.

Ideally, the workload is equally divided between the two nurses, but during a shift, anything can happen that changes the plan. A patient may suddenly deteriorate, so one of us will take responsibility for the particular patient, while the other carries out the rest of the workload.

Every day as a nurse is different, and although it can be challenging to be thinking on your feet (quite literally), it’s a very rewarding career.

What are some comments or questions about your job that you hate hearing?

Each day as a nurse, we face complicated and challenging tasks, so whenever someone says it’s just a personal or hygienic care job, I feel offended. I mostly hate hearing this when it’s said in a demeaning tone by someone who doesn’t understand the profession.

One of the determining factors that drew me to study nursing is because nurses, just like doctors, aim to achieve the same overarching goal, to provide care and welfare to patients.

What many people don’t understand is how many opportunities there are within the profession. To date, I have been a volunteer nurse in the emergency department, a staff nurse in a hospital’s operating theatre, a nursing instructor, and a staff nurse in a cardiothoracic ward. I have travelled and worked in many countries and have realised that nursing truly could take me anywhere.

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