Are you ready to pack your bags, book your tickets and start your adventure nursing around Australia? As exciting as it is, don’t forget one important little thing, and that’s called ‘experience’.

Working in Australia is an item on the bucket list for many nurses around the world. Whilst the demand for nurses in Australia if high, it is also important to remember that there are certain skills and a particular level experience that is required.

If you plan to travel around Australia and opt for the flexibility that agency work brings – you will quickly become an extremely adaptable nurse. Day to day work will involve covering staff shortages and assisting when patient numbers are more than the regular staff can care for. Agency staff are expected to step in and take control of whatever they are assigned – and in order to do this, a certain amount of in-hospital experience is obviously necessary.

The level of experience required to nurse in Australia is based on a) what the nursing agencies and hospitals deem adequate, and b) what is required in order to get AHPRA registration in the first place.

Future employer expectations

Nursing agencies obviously want to send out confident and competent nurses to the hospitals that they service. It is for this reason that they usually have a standard minimum amount of experience. Often these requirements are also set by hospital policy.

The level of experience required may vary from one agency to the next, although as a rule of thumb, general nurses need to have at least a minimum of 12 months’ post graduate experience. If your scope is related to midwifery, theatre or critical care – then you will need at least 2 years’ experience in your field. It is important to remember that often, the only experience taken into account is that in which was performed in an AHPRA recognised country.

AHPRA requirements

Internationally qualified nurses and midwives are required to meet a set of registration standards in order to be deemed eligible for initial registration with AHPRA.

One of the four registration standards is demonstrating recency of practice whereby you need to provide evidence that you have maintained an adequate connection with, and recent practice in the profession since qualifying or obtaining registration.

The most common way of demonstrating this is to provide evidence that you have completed a minimum of 450 hours of practice within the past 5 years. This is approximately 3 months of full time work.

For more information on meeting this standard, refer to the AHPRA website and the relevant information here.

The common question of how much experience is required to nurse in Australia, can be answered in terms of; the requirements of AHPRA, as well as agency expectations. When deciding when to plan your Australian nursing adventure, it is important to take into account both of these requirements – and understand that your role as an agency nurse will be one where you will have to think on your feet, and ultimately, have the experience behind you to do so.