Nursing in Australia – My Experience
I have a question for you. Would you consider working abroad in Australia or would you rather quit your job and just travel? I decided to go for it and start nursing in Australia during my Working Holiday Visa but I know that decision isn’t for everyone.
Leaving a job behind and travelling the world seems to be on every millennial’s bucket list. The notion of quitting your current life in exchange for one that involves no alarm clocks and a new country every month. To most this is a dream simply impossible to grasp. But more and more people are making it their reality and this notion is no longer a vision conjured up inside the imagination but in fact, real life. So how exactly do people just up and leave their jobs, friends and families for a life of travel? Well in this blog you won’t find out, sorry.
What you will find out is how and why I’m doing the opposite. How nursing in Australia has changed life for me in so many ways. Instead of quitting my job I decided to look into nursing in Australia so that I didn’t have to kiss my career goodbye. I’m now eight months into a year of travel around Australia with my career firmly intact (ish). In this post, I’m going to talk about how I think it is possible to live a life of travel with a career, whether it’s your current career or a brand new one and what could happen when you take your career overseas with you.
This post will be coming right from the heart and is not a fluffy ‘every nurse should move to Australia because the pay is better’ type of post. In this post, I’m talking about how eight months of travel whilst nursing in Australia has been for me. You’ll find out the challenges, rewards and the wave of emotions I’ve experienced and ultimately the answers to two crucial questions.
Was the hassle of becoming a registered nurse in Australia worth it?
Will I be continuing to take my career with me on my onward travels beyond Australia?
Saying Caio to your boss and flying out of the workplace, winking at your colleagues as you pass them by, must be such an exhilarating feeling! Though, I did technically leave my workplace I knew I’d be doing the same work in a short time after arriving in Australia. The feeling of knowing you aren’t working for a year or more? Well, I can’t imagine how insane that would feel! There are many reasons why people do quit their job to travel and equal reasons as to why people like me take their career with them. The logical reason people assume we decided on working abroad in Australia is that we hadn’t saved enough money, which is total garbage. We could’ve travelled comfortably on the budget that we had saved for Australia.
There were a few reasons why I wanted to start nursing in Australia. I wanted to experience living in Australia not holidaying. Living full time in Australia was always a vision I imagined coming true at some point in my life. I really wanted to get a feel for what’s it really like to live and become a nurse here. After all, who wouldn’t want to live on holiday?
Secondly, if I’m being brutally honest, I’ve been falling out of love with my nursing career in the UK for a while. I wanted to see if changing countries and the conditions helped. Of course, I had a huge list of pros and cons to nursing in Australia which I go into more detail about below. But first, let’s get into how I started nursing in Australia and how you can take your career overseas too!
Nursing in Australia – My Career
Naturally, I’m lucky in the sense that I have quite an easy profession to transfer overseas. As a registered nurse it’s a career that is in demand all over the world but of course, it still has its limitations to getting work easily. Before I even thought about nursing in Australia I knew that to succeed I needed to do plenty of research. This will be the same with every single career.
No matter how transferrable your skills are research is the most important part when you’re even considering taking your career to work abroad. I know people who have woken up and decided one day that they are moving countries and expect to be nursing for example, in Australia, within a month. That to me is craziness because it takes long enough to obtain registration for overseas nurses in Australia or just move jobs within the country you live in! The research is key!
Working Abroad in Austalia – Research Your Career
A lot of people find themselves at a loss when thinking about how to research working abroad in Australia so I wanted to share some tips. You can also download the PDF below for some extra helpful hints! When I was transferring my career overseas I looked into these things, if it was possible, how long it would take, how much it would cost, if I needed to do any more training and the visa work rights.
In some countries, the length you have to go to take your job overseas is sometimes not worth it. For example, if I wanted to nurse in the USA I know I have to do an exam, if I wanted to nurse in say France I would need to learn French before even thinking about it. So it’s important to weigh up the pros and cons when even just thinking about quitting your job to travel the world or taking it with you.
Pros and Cons
The pros and cons for me were obvious and I didn’t need much persuading when deciding whether or not I was going to try nursing in Australia. The registration is the exact same as what’s taught in the UK meaning that all degree credentials are recognised here in Australia, no exam required (HUGE PRO! For someone who hates exams over here!!).
The pay rate for nurses in Australia equates to double that of the UK, yes, please! And I knew we’d be staying in Australia for a year so it meant that we didn’t have so much pressure to save up enough money to survive for a year with no job!
As well as all of the above it also meant we had the opportunity to travel slowly. Slow travel is a concept that I’m falling more in love with. When I was twenty-one I experienced the adventure of a lifetime on a Trek America tour of the USA’s West Coast.
Although these three weeks were some of the best in my life I couldn’t help but think that it would’ve been better if we could spend extra time in some of the destinations. We saw so much but in some places, we weren’t there for long enough to really consume the place. To me travel is about taking it all in, experiencing every inch of a place from its culture, locals, food, sunsets and sunrises! Something you just can’t do when you only stop somewhere for an hour. I knew when coming to Australia I wanted to be able to enjoy each and every place. So staying here for a year was always on the agenda, not to mention that slow travel has a positive impact on our planet and achieving sustainable travel.
Nursing in Australia has meant we can break up periods of work and travel. Australia is a massive country to get around and having the money and flexibility of staying for a year have meant we can see so much more than if we just stayed for a few weeks. When we have enjoyed periods of travel it’s meant that we could save up extra cash from working and spend more on our trips! For example, on our East Coast Road trip we probably spent more than your average budgeter, though we are always on the hunt for budget travel, we had a little extra which went a long way!
So with the pros outweighing the cons, we decided that I was definitely going to get my AHPRA nursing registration here in Australia. It took some time and the process was hard work but I started organising myself a year in advance and it all went through pretty swimmingly!
My Experience of Nursing in Australia
So after a lot of paperwork and almost four figures from my healthy bank balance gone I was finally a registered nurse in Australia! So what has that meant for me, my career and my travel? Well, it’s been a total rollercoaster ride! There’s been highs, lows and damn right unmanageable situations but before I delve into the emotions I want to talk about how to find balance working abroad in Australia and travelling.
Finding Balance, Travelling and Nursing in Australia
The main priority in living down under was always the travel. I wanted to live, breathe, experience the true Aussie lifestyle and take in all its wonder. So even though I knew I wanted to nurse here I knew that was my second priority, the bit on the side rather than the husband. I made sure that with every decision I made that my ability to travel this country wasn’t in jeopardy. Luckily for nurses, we can join what’s called an agency.
Basically, I pick my hours, my own shifts and I can just take off for a week or month without giving anyone notice or a second thought! This has honestly been the best part about nursing in Australia and I doubt I will ever go back to a permanent nursing role ever again.
I know that a lot of businesses and jobs have agencies so make sure you explore all the options before taking on contracts overseas. Teachers, can you just do supply work? Construction workers think about if you can take a short contract like 2-3 months, are you a creative who could go freelance or a data analyst who could work from home/the poolside? You need to know all the options to ensure that travel stays the main priority. To me, there isn’t much point in working abroad in Australia if you can’t have any say in your hours or time off. If you are taking a permanent role don’t forget to ask about annual leave as it could be a lot shorter than what you’re used to!
Since arriving as a nurse in Australia I’ve faced challenges that have been difficult but, I’ve also been able to work in some amazing facilities and with some beautiful people doing incredible things. One of the hardest things about working abroad is getting used to the differences. The different policies, protocols, different drugs, observations procedure and by far my worst nightmare – THE MACHINES! Working out to use a different IV pump in each different hospital could’ve sent me over the edge.
But how has nursing in Australia impacted on my year in Australia
Travelling Australia whilst nursing has brought so much to my life. I’ve worked alongside amazing people and made some friends that I will cherish for life. It’s been one of the most rewarding experience’s knowing that I’ve helped families at the other side of the world come through some of the hardest times of their lives. I’ve doubled my pay which yes, has had a huge impact on how we’ve been able to travel here in Australia. We started working pretty quickly after hitting Brisbane in June and didn’t need to use any of our savings! Crazy right? So we were more than able to take a month off to enjoy the Australian East Coast for a whole month with no expense spared when it came to experiencing places like Fraser Island and the Whitsundays, without nursing in Australia that wouldn’t have been possible.
On the subject of pay, my eyes have been opened to the world of weekly pay, why don’t we do this in the UK?! It has felt amazing to not have to worry about what we’ll be eating during that last week of the month but we’ve also spent more on things we wouldn’t have before like, cameras, clothes, eating out because we can simply say ‘we get paid in three more days anyway’ doesn’t quite work like that when its the excuse every week!
I’ve learnt about the different nursing practice here in Australia to the UK which I must admit I have found questionable at times. It’s hard to change your practice, in whatever career you have, after you’ve been taught to do it a certain way for so long. One of the most challenging things about nursing in Australia has been ‘We don’t do like that it here’ for the simplest tasks. It’s made me question myself time and time again.
But I’ve also learnt new practices which I can take home with me and apply to my practice. I find myself thinking, ’we should do it like this’ on more than occasion as well. I’ve learnt to be more adaptable and flexible since working agency as you can be moved from ward to ward a lot! I’m amazed how lucky I’ve been in Australia to have constant work via the agency Health Care Australia and how quickly I’ve fit into the teams I’ve been working with here!
But it hasn’t all been plain sailing and it’s taught me a lot about myself as a nurse and a person
At the start of this post, I mention how I was falling out of love with my nursing career back home. I was exhausted from the constant shift work swapping from nights to days, fed up of us getting no pay rises and struggling to make ends meet by the end of each month. Teams are demotivated with the constant pressures of the NHS and understaffed conditions and the responsibility posted on me as a human being. I was riddled with anxiety before every single shift.
I quite frankly was questioning whether it was all worth it. But I wasn’t ready to throw the towel in just yet, nursing in Australia could be a whole new ball game. I could fall back in love with the career I chose OR it could make me realise that it’s just not for me. I bet you’re dying to find out which way it’s gone, aren’t you?
In a nutshell, it’s been a game of swings and roundabouts with everything. For every positive, there’s been negative and vice versa.
Doubling my pay has been incredible and I actually feel like I get paid what I deserve which makes a huge difference to work ethic (like I said this isn’t a fluffy post) but the nature of the work has been the exact same. Shifts are still tiring but I don’t have to swap from days to nights because thanks to agency work I get to choose! The pressures are less of those than the NHS but guess what once you nurse in Australia and get used to their staffing ratios, it’s hard when the wards here are ‘short-staffed’. Yes there are more nurses in Australia but like the NHS there is of course sickness, agencies cancel and ultimately you still end up being short staffed.
The responsibility remains the same, it’s still peoples lives in my hands and I have no idea if my brain can cope with that half of the time. I’ve had to be the bravest I have ever been working out here as a nurse in Australia. As I said, travel was always the main priority so I was always going to be moving around and having to meet a whole new team of nurses and new protocols every few months has taken its toll for sure. But I’ve done it and I’ve settled in well in every single hospital I’ve worked in which for an under-confident serial worrier is pretty amazing!
So if you’re following me correctly you can probably see that not quitting my job to travel the world and working abroad in Australia has sent me riding a wave of emotions but ultimately it’s been the BEST THING I could’ve done for my career!
And for that, I reason I couldn’t be more proud and happy that I did it and I urge anybody to go for it and see how it helps you grow as a person! Nursing in Australia has made me face my demons head-on. I’ve been a worrier since before I can remember, ask anyone who knows me, I over think everything but back home with my friends and family I’d just shrug it off and go have a good time. But here with not many friends and my family not just down the road, it’s been hard.
Nursing in Australia has made me face my fears and come to terms with my own mental health that I’ve struggled with for so long.
I’ve found myself taking steps to address my fears and thoughts that hold me back, something I’ve never admitted before even though deep down I know I’ve needed to. I’ve found myself doing more nursing study, making sure I’m up to date with current evidence-based practice in Australia, asking people for help even if it’s the smallest thing (because in Australia they do the smallest things differently)!
It’s made me realise that I sometimes need to learn how to chill out and relax after work. This has given me a push to take up new hobbies like Yoga which I would’ve never done before but I just needed to relax and forget about work! So I tried it and wow have I fallen in love with it! It’s made me really think hard about my future and my career and IF I want to nurse anywhere else in the world!
So I guess this takes me back to my two questions at the start.
Was obtaining my nursing registration in Australia worth it? Well, I think I’ve answered this one, we’ve been able to do so much more here thanks to having a constant income and I’ve learnt a thing or two about myself that I may never have before so YES. As I said, I would encourage everyone to work abroad whether that’s in your current career or something brand new! Working in a different country makes you see the place in a different light for sure. You feel more like a local and less like a tourist.
Will I be taking my nursing career on my adventures beyond Australia? A million times, YES.
Although nursing in Australia has been hard work it’s been amazing. I’ve gained new skills, met amazing people, learnt how to be flexible and totally transferrable in my role! My confidence has increased because guess what, in every country, the basics of nursing are the same. So as long as you can spot a sick patient the rest can come later! So what if you don’t know how to use that machine they use at that new hospital – YOU’LL LEARN! Nursing in different countries is a real eye-opener and has allowed me to grown massively as a nurse and person. So yes, in June 2019 I will be taking my career across the water and nursing in New Zealand!
So if you want to take your career overseas then please go for it! It will open your eyes to so much and you’ll grow in ways you didn’t know were possible! If you need any more tips or any guidance on taking your career overseas or have any other questions in relation to this post then please comment below or hit me up via email at [email protected]
Thank you so much for reading as always,
Happy and Healthy Travels!
If you’ve worked abroad and found out things about yourself that you never did before then I would love to know your story! Or if you’re starting to think about working abroad in Australia or anywhere else in the world then I want to know yours too! Leave me a comment below or send me an email, I’d love to help you on your journey to working abroad!