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Registered Nurse - About the job Alternative titles
Tapuhi Whai Rēhitatanga
Registered nurses assess, treat, care for and support patients in hospitals, clinics, residential care facilities, and in their homes.
Call us on 0800 222 733
Bachelor of Nursing or Bachelor of Health Sciences
Registration with the Nursing Council of New Zealand
Pay for registered nurses varies depending on experience, duties and responsibilities.
- New graduate nurses earn about $47,000 a year.
- Those with three to five years' experience can earn between $54,000 and $64,000.
- Senior nurses with more responsibilities can earn from $67,000 to $110,000.
Source: District Health Boards/New Zealand Nurses Organisation, 'Multi-Employer Collective Agreement 1 March 2012 to 28 February 2015', 2014.
(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the figures and diagrams in our job information)
What you will do
Registered nurses may do some or all of the following:
- assess, plan, co-ordinate and carry out nursing care to improve patients' health
- administer patients' medication and intravenous drugs
- monitor and assess patients' conditions and record important changes
- visit and educate patients, their families and community groups about health needs, and prevention of accidents and illness
- work with other health professionals, community organisations, employers and government agencies to meet the needs of patients' caregivers, whānau and supporters.
Nurse practitioners are expert nurses in a specialist area of practice. They assess, diagnose and treat patients, and also prescribe medications. Some may run their own health clinics.
Enrolled nurses provide care to patients under the direction of a registered nurse or nurse practitioner.
Skills and knowledge
Registered nurses need to have:
- excellent nursing skills and knowledge of different nursing methods
- knowledge of how the human body works
- knowledge of different diseases and illnesses
- knowledge of medicines and treatments, and the effects these have on patients
- an ability to assess and monitor patients' conditions
- cultural competency to work with Maori and Pacific peoples.
- work shifts of eight to 12 hours if they are employed at hospitals, rest homes or nursing homes. Those working in the community or at medical centres usually work 40 hours a week
- may have to work in stressful situations, and may come into contact with diseases and bodily fluids
- may travel within their region to visit clients.
What's the job really like?
Parehuia Maxwell - Whanau Hauora Nurse
Parehuia works with wide range of people in the community
As a whānau hauora (family health) nurse, Parehuia Maxwell works with a range of people in the community through clinics and home or marae-based visits. "I get out into the rural areas of Gisborne and I love my job. We don't diagnose illnesses, but we provide screenings that include measuring blood pressure, glucose levels and weight. "We look after people from the age of five upwards, but the majority of our clients are elderly. Supporting our kaumātua is important."
Positive relationships with patients key to the job
For Parehuia, building positive relationships with her patients is a really important part of keeping them healthy. "What I like most is passing on information and supporting the whānau. You've got to be able to talk to everyone, not just one person, because often you're talking to the whole whānau and giving them peace of mind.
"Sometimes you get people turning up on your back doorstep who want you to come and see someone, but that's the great thing about the job – when they feel comfortable with me and there are no barriers. If people don’t come and seek advice from me then I'm not doing my job properly."
Parehuia Maxwell's hapū is Ngāti Maru and her iwi is Rongowhakaata.
Watch the video above to find out about being a prison nurse - 8.37 mins. (Video courtesy of Just the Job)
Clinton: Farisha is going inside Spring Hill Corrections Facility - one of 20 Prisons in New Zealand…
Kirsten: Hi Farisha…
Clinton: …to meet Kirsten Harrison, a Nurse at Corrections.
Clinton: Nurses at Corrections provide the same range of health care to Prisoners as Nurses do in the community- that is, they maintain the health and well-being of prisoners.
Kristen: We’ve just got a few things you need to know about. People can be pretty manipulative, so just be careful with the questions you’re asked. Ok? But you’re safe, you’ve always got someone with you, security officers are around – you’ll be fine.
Clinton: There are risks working in this environment. But Corrections know the risks, and manage them.
Farisha: So what’s the main difference between working on the outside and working here?
Kirsten: Well when you’re working in a hospital as a nurse, you’re in a more specialized environment, whereas when you’re working here, we do a variety of things – from accident and emergency right through to general practice and primary healthcare.
Clintion: There are about 9000 prisoners in New Zealand and nurses help with the ultimate goal of reducing re-offending by focusing on the offender’s health and wellbeing.
Farisha: So what kind of skills helps in this kind of work?
Kirsten: In this environment, I think life experience is really, really important, also having a wide variety of skills. You need accident and emergency and you also need knowledge in long-term medical conditions as well. So we’re just going to go and give a prisoner his medication now, ok?
Kirsten: You need to make sure that you’ve got the right prisoner first – he needs to be facing you with a glass of water, ok? Put the medication in his hand, he’s got to swallow that medication and you need to check his mouth to make sure he’s swallowed it. Ok?
Farisha: Ok, yep.
Farisha: Is there anything I need to be careful of?
Kirsten: Just stand a little bit back from the cell door when the officer opens it – you can get an impression of his mood.
Guard: Medication, Blue
Prisoner: Morning guys!
Farisha: Morning, how are you today?
Prisoner: Morning, how are you? Are you new?
Farisha: Yes, I’m new.
Farisha: I’ve got your morning medication.
Kirstin: You must make sure that he’s got his hand out, with his cup of water in his other hand, ok?
Farisha: So we’ve got your ibuprofen here.
Kirsten: Lovely, thank you.
1.10.32 Farisha: Thank you.
Kirsten: Well I applied for a job at the Department of Corrections because it provided me with a challenge - also a really good environment to use the skills that I’ve learnt over the last few years of being nurse, and the hours are really good, they fitted in with my family, better than working shift work – you know, night shifts, and the opportunity to progress in my nursing career.
Clinton: Every new prisoner like Dylan gets an initial health check.
Kirsten: One of the really important things for us is that we’re working with people that may never have had access to adequate healthcare before, so they often arrive really, really unwell.
Kirsten: Do you have any history of any depression or anxiety in the last twelve months at all?
Dylan: Nah, not really.
Kirsten: And we move through the treatment process and they get to the end of their sentence, and they’re quite healthy, they’re quite well, so that’s quite rewarding.
Clinton: While Kirsten shows Farisha how it’s done, they find a problem.
Farisha: I’m going to take your heart rate. [notices his arm is injured]. Is it sore?
Dylan: I was just playing basketball this morning, and I fell over.
Kirsten: Ok. Did you hear a crack, or anything like that, when you landed on it?
Dylan: No, sort of my elbow went back.
Kirsten: What I’m going to do is get Farisha to put that arm in a sling.
The main challenge is the environment we are working in. People aren’t free to move about, so that’s a big challenge. And also a person’s willingness to accept care, and to accept help as well.
You have behavioural issues that can provide a barrier to delivering really effective medical care.
Dylan – Thanks Miss!
Kirsten: No problem.
Clinton: Male and female prisoners are housed in different prisons. Kirsten now takes Farisha to Auckland Region Women’s Correctional Facility to see how nurses with the Department of Corrections deal with women’s health issues on the inside.
Kirsten: We’re dealing with women here, so you’ve got health issues specific to women – so gynecology and pregnancy related issues. Often in the community they’re very unwell, they haven’t been cared for adequately. So our job is to bring them back to optimum health while they’re here.
Farisha: So what kind of person would be good for this job?
Kirsten: You need to be really tolerant, patient, and kind and also leaving your prejudice at the door.
Clinton: Now it’s Farisha’s turn to do an initial health check of new prisoner, Mary.
Guard: Where would you like your prisoner?
Kirsten: Just over here, thank you.
Farisha: My name is Farisha, I’m one of the student nurses. How are you today?
Mary: Good thank you.
Farisha: Is it ok if I do your healthcare assessment with you?
Mary: That’s alright.
Farisha: Ok, so what it involves, I’ll just ask you some questions, and what the answer is, I will just type in.
Farisha: Have you had any screenings done before?
Mary: I had it last year.
Farisha: Have you taken medication for mental health?.
Farisha: And there’s some more questions for you.
Farisha: Have you had unprotected sex before?
Mary: Um, yes.
Farisha: Yes? Ok. So do you think you might be pregnant?
Mary: Yeah I might be, but I’m not sure.
Farisha: Ok, so we’ll just do a urine test, just to do a pregnancy test on you, and if you are pregnant, we can go on from there for further testing. So is that ok with you?
Mary: Yep, not a problem.
1.13.06 Clinton: Being a nurse means helping people deal with emotional news.
Kirsten: Ok Mary, we’ve done this test and it’s saying that it’s positive, ok?
Mary: What?! Oh my God!
Kirsten: It’s ok.
1Mary: But what am I going to do? That means I’m gonna have this baby in here! Oh.
Kirsten: How long are you going to be here for?
Mary: Three and a half.
Kirsten: Three and a half years? Ok, so you will be having your baby while you’re here. Alright? But don’t worry about it at the moment, we’ve got a midwife ok, the midwife will take care of your pregnancy care.
Mary: Is there a possibility that I can keep baby in here?
Kirsten: Yes there is. We’ve got a mother and baby unit here.
Clinton: Prisoners who meet certain criteria may have the opportunity to keep their baby with them for a certain period of time in one of the purpose built Mother and Baby Units.
Kirsten: It’s more than just patching the person up and getting them out the door. We’re looking at the person as a whole and we’re dealing with a really vulnerable population here, so one of the things that I enjoy about working here is that very thing – it’s educating and promoting and helping a person be able to take care of themselves. And that’s why I really love my job.
Farisha: I really like helping people, especially in this vulnerable environment, and I think this will be a really good nursing role for me in the future.
Clinton: Useful school subjects for people wanting to become a nurse at Corrections include Science, Biology, Statistics, English, Te Reo Maori and Health.
To become a nurse you will first need a Nursing Degree which takes 3 years to complete.
Then to become a Nurse at Corrections you must be registered with the Nursing Council of New Zealand displaying adequate primary health care experience, have a current practicing certificate, and have a full current driver license. The Department of Corrections does offer a number of graduate nursing positions whereby you can gain experience working for the Department.
On application you need to declare any criminal convictions, and offences may affect your selection.
To become a registered nurse you need to complete a Bachelor of Nursing or Bachelor of Health Sciences.
You also need to be registered with the Nursing Council of New Zealand and have a current Annual Practising Certificate.
You can also train as an enrolled nurse by completing a Diploma in Enrolled Nursing. Enrolled nurses have a limited scope of practice and work under the supervision of a registered nurse or nurse practitioner.
To become a nurse practitioner you need to have:
- a Master's degree in nursing or health science that involves on-the-job training, and appears on the list of qualifications approved by the Nursing Council of New Zealand
- at least four years' nursing experience in a specific area of practice
- passed a Nursing Council assessment for nurse practitioners.
The Vulnerable Children Act 2014 means that if you have certain serious convictions, you can’t be employed in a role where you are responsible for, or work alone with, children.
- Children’s Action Plan website - overview of restrictions on working with children
- New Zealand Legislation website - information on serious convictions that prevent employment with children
NCEA Level 3 is required to gain entrance to a Bachelor of Nursing or Health Sciences. English, and science subjects such as chemistry, biology, or physics are recommended.
Additional requirements for specialist roles:
To become a Plunket nurse you must complete the Postgraduate Certificate in Primary Health Care Specialty Nursing (Level 8) through Whitireia polytechnic after you have been working for six months.
- Plunket website - how to become a Plunket nurse
- Whitireia NZ website - information about the Postgraduate Certificate in Primary Health Care Specialty Nursing
Practice nurses must have:
- a current cardio-pulmonary resuscitation (CPR) certificate
- a certificate of competence in vaccinations or cervical screening, if they are performing those duties.
Voluntary bonding scheme
The Ministry of Health runs a voluntary bonding scheme aimed at recruiting more graduate nurses to work in specialist areas that are hard to staff.
Graduates are bonded for three years and after this they receive extra payments for up to five years.
Registered nurses need to be:
- good at communicating
- skilled at problem-solving
- able to work well under pressure and remain calm in emergencies
- able to keep information confidential
- able to show compassion, and relate to people from various cultures and backgrounds
- patient and helpful.
Useful experience for registered nurses includes:
- work with young children, families, the elderly, or people with disabilities
- social work
- community support work
- hospital-based work
- health promotion or other health-related work
Registered nurses need to be reasonably fit, as they may have to spend long periods on their feet, and sometimes have to lift patients.
Nurses need to be registered with the Nursing Council of New Zealand and have a current Annual Practising Certificate.
- Nursing Council of New Zealand website - information about registration and Annual Practising Certificates
View information on courses in the course database
Find out more about training
years of training required
What are the chances of getting a job?
The nursing workforce has been growing steadily over the last five years. Over 90% of graduates have jobs within a year of graduating, and 70% have jobs within 3 months, according to the Ministry of Health.
Additional places on the Nursing Entry To Practice (NETP) programmes for new graduates are also in place for 2014/2015.
Chances of finding work are likely to be better in West Coast and South Canterbury – these regions are deemed as hard to staff by the Voluntary Bonding Scheme for nurses.
More nurses will need to be trained by 2017 because:
- there is increasing demand for healthcare
- more nurses are approaching retirement age, with the average age of nurses over 50 in some specialist areas of work.
Specialist areas in shortage
There is a shortage of experienced registered nurses in:
- aged care
- primary care
- mental health (including addiction services)
Experienced registered nurses are also on Immigration New Zealand’s skill shortage list. This means the government is actively encouraging nurses with over five years experience from overseas to work in New Zealand.
Types of employers varied
About half of nurses are employed by district health boards in hospital and community settings. Others work for:
- private hospitals
- primary health organisations and primary care settings such as doctors' practices and family planning clinics
- rest and nursing homes (aged residential hospital care)
- non-government organisations such as Plunket (community child health)
- private health trusts and providers
- Bodkin, J, senior advisor nursing, Ministry of Health, Careers New Zealand interview, January 2015.
- Immigration New Zealand, 'Long-term Skill Shortage List', accessed January 2015, (www.immigration.govt.nz).
- Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, '2003-2012 Occupation Data' (prepared for Careers New Zealand), 2012.
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Progression and specialisations
After at least five years working as a registered nurse you may progress to the positions of senior nurse or nurse manager, and manage other nurses.
Nurses usually specialise in an area such as:
- Aged Care Nurse
- Aged care nurses provide nursing care to the elderly in the community, as well as in residential aged care facilities, retirement villages and health care facilities.
- Community Health Nurse
- Community health nurses provide nursing care and education to individuals and groups in the wider community. They may specialise in a particular area of community health such as disease control, health promotion, caring for refugee families, or housing project work.
- Critical Care and Emergency Nurse
- Critical care and emergency nurses work with patients following injury or surgery, or during the acute phase of diseases, in places such as intensive care units or emergency departments.
- Mental Health and Addictions Nurse
- Mental health and addictions nurses care for patients with emotional, mental and psychological problems. They may also specialise in crisis assessment or telephone triage, which involves assessing mental health needs and risks based on symptoms reported to them over the telephone.
- Perioperative Nurse
- Perioperative nurses care for patients before, during and immediately after surgery. They plan nursing care, maintain a safe and comfortable environment, assist surgeons and anaesthetists during surgery, and monitor patients' recovery from anaesthetic prior to and after surgery.
- Plunket Nurse
- Plunket nurses provide support to parents by giving advice on childcare and parenting. They assess the health and development of children from birth up to the age of five.
- Practice Nurse
- Practice nurses work in general practitioners' surgeries and medical clinics, and may assist with immunisations, vaccinations, and wound care, and provide general health advice.
How many people are doing this job?
Job vacancies by region
Updated 22 Sep 2015