Registered nurse (RN)
Registered nurses (RNs) are trained at university and are licensed to practise in Australia. They work in the community, hospitals and rehabilitation units. They might also specialise in areas like child and family health, continence and emergency medicine.
For example, you and your child will probably see a child and family health nurse when you go for your child’s development checks at your local child and family health centre. Along with your GP, your child and family health nurse is a good starting point for any worries you have about your child’s health or development, breastfeeding and bottle-feeding, or your own wellbeing.
Some children might need to see a continence nurse. Continence nurses are RNs who specialise in preventing, treating and managing problems with controlling wees and poos. They can give you advice on toilet training programs and continence equipment and products.
RNs also work in outpatient clinics (for example, an orthopaedic clinic if your child has had a broken arm), GP clinics, hospital wards (for example, paediatric or neonatal wards), rehabilitation units, schools and community centres.
Enrolled nurse (EN)
Enrolled nurses (ENs) provide nursing care under the supervision of an RN. ENs have a diploma-level qualification, which isn’t as high as a university degree.
Nurse practitioners are RNs with special training and skills that enable them to work in an advanced clinical role. Nurse practitioners can either have general skills or specialise in an area of nursing – for example, paediatrics. You’ll probably see a nurse practitioner if you have to go to a hospital emergency department with your child.
A nurse practitioner is qualified to take your child’s history, examine your child and handle any diagnostic tests your child might need. Nurse practitioners can send you to other health care providers – for example, medical specialists or physiotherapists – and prescribe medications as needed. They work in hospitals and the community.
Practice nurses are RNs or ENs who work in general practices – that is, your local doctor’s surgery. They work with GPs to give you health and lifestyle education, wound care, health assessments, specialist referrals and immunisations.
A primary school nurse is an RN who does general health checks for children aged 5-12 years. These checks help to identify and manage any early health concerns. Primary school nurses might also do vision screening, hearing tests, immunisations, education on preventing accidents and injuries, and asthma management.
Primary school nurses work closely with students, teachers and parents. They can give you advice on positive parenting and nutrition. They often help teachers with education resources and with working out where to get extra help for students who need it.
A secondary school nurse is an RN who does general health checks for children aged 12-18 years. Secondary school nurses can give young people advice on making healthy lifestyle choices. They also aim to identify and reduce smoking, alcohol and other drug use, eating disorders, obesity, depression, self-harm and other risky behaviour.
Secondary school nurses often do health counselling, school activities and group work. They work closely with parents, teachers, social workers, school psychologists and guidance officers to get the best care for students.
Getting health advice from a nurse
For non-urgent health advice, you can call Healthdirect Australia on 1800 022 222 to speak with a registered nurse.