Registered Nurse

Tapuhi Whai Rēhitatanga

Alternative titles for this job

Registered nurses assess, treat and support people who are sick, disabled or injured, in hospitals, clinics, rest homes, and nursing homes.


Graduate registered nurses usually earn

$54K per year

Senior registered nurses usually earn

$79K-$130K per year

Source: DHB/NZNO, 2019.

Job opportunities

Chances of getting a job as a registered nurse are average for those wanting to enter the role, but good for those with experience.


Pay for registered nurses varies depending on experience, duties and responsibilities.

Enrolled nurses working for district health boards

  • Graduate enrolled nurses working for district health boards earn $49,000 a year.
  • Enrolled nurses with one to four years' experience usually earn $51,000 to $57,000.

Enrolled nurses care for patients while a registered nurse or nurse practitioner supervises them.

Registered nurses working for district health boards

  • Graduate registered nurses earn $54,000 a year. 
  • Registered nurses with three to seven years' experience usually earn $62,000 to $77,000.
  • Senior registered nurses with more experience and responsibility usually earn $79,000 to $130,000.

 Source: District Health Boards/New Zealand Nurses Organisation, 'Multi-Employer Collective Agreement: 4 June 2018-31 July 2020', accessed October 2019.

(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the sources of our pay information)

What you will do

Registered nurses may do some or all of the following:

  • assess patients
  • plan and carry out nursing care in partnership with other health professionals
  • monitor patients' conditions and record changes
  • give patients immunisations, medicine and intravenous (IV) drugs
  • advise patients and help them to manage their own health 
  • visit and educate patients, families and community groups about health and preventing accidents and illness
  • delegate work to enrolled nurses and health care assistants
  • give further education to trained nurses and other staff
  • do health-related research and evaluations.

Enrolled nurses care for patients while a registered nurse or nurse practitioner supervises them.

Skills and knowledge

Registered nurses need to have knowledge of:

  • how to assess and monitor patients' conditions and symptoms
  • the human body and its diseases and illnesses
  • nursing methods for different illnesses and injuries
  • the effects of different medicines and treatments
  • how to advocate on behalf of patients
  • different cultural beliefs about health and medical treatment.

Working conditions

Registered nurses:

  • usually work eight- to 12-hour shifts, including nights, weekends and public holidays. Nurses who work in the community or at medical centres usually work a set 40 hours a week
  • may work in stressful situations, and be in contact with distressed people, diseases and body fluids
  • may travel locally to visit clients.

What's the job really like?

Parehuia Maxwell

Parehuia Maxwell

Whānau Hauora Nurse

Working with a 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.

Registered nurse video

Farisha finds out about being a prison nurse – 8.37 mins. (Video courtesy of Just the Job)

Farisha: Hi, my name is Farisha, I’m a third-year nursing student and I want to check out what nursing is like in a prison.

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 wellbeing of prisoners.

Kirsten: We’ve just got a few things you need to look out for. Some 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 specialised environment, whereas when you’re working here, we do a variety of things – from accident and emergency right through to general practice and primary health care.

Clinton: There are about 9,000 prisoners in New Zealand and nurses help with the ultimate goal of reducing reoffending by focusing on the offender’s health and wellbeing.

Farisha: So what kind of skills help 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?

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. Is there anything I should be careful of?

Kirsten: Just stand a little bit back from the cell door when the officer first 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?

Kirsten: Alright.

Farisha: So we’ve got your ibuprofen here.

Prisoner: OK. Ta.

Kirsten: Lovely, thank you.

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 12 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 gynaecology 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 health care assessment with you?

Mary: That’s alright.

Farisha: OK, so what it involves, I’ll just ask you some questions, and whatever 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: 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.

Farisha: OK.

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.

Mary: But what am I going to do? That means I’m going to 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 Māori and health.

To become a nurse you will first need a nursing degree, which takes three 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 practising certificate, and have a full current driver licence. 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.

Entry requirements

Enrolled nurse 

To become an enrolled nurse you need to:

  • complete a Diploma of Enrolled Nursing (Level 5) 
  • pass an assessment by an approved provider
  • pass an examination for enrolled nurses.

Enrolled nurses care for patients while a registered nurse or nurse practitioner supervises them.

Registered nurse

To become a registered nurse you need to :

  • complete a Bachelor of Nursing, or other Level 7 or 8 qualification approved by the Nursing Council of New Zealand
  • pass an assessment by an approved provider
  • pass a Nursing Council of New Zealand examination for registered nurses.

Registered nurses also need to register with the Nursing Council of New Zealand.

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.

Secondary education

NCEA Level 3 is required to enter tertiary training. Useful subjects include maths, English, biology, chemistry and physics.

Additional requirements for specialist roles:

Nurse Practitioner

To become a nurse practitioner you need to:

Plunket Nurse

To become a Plunket nurse working in child health development and community-based nursing you need to:

Practice Nurse

To become a practice nurse you must have a:

Personal requirements

Registered nurses need to be:

  • good at communicating
  • skilled at problem solving
  • organised, with excellent time management 
  • able to work well under pressure and stay calm in emergencies
  • able to keep personal information confidential
  • kind, patient, tolerant and helpful
  • able to relate to people from a range of cultures and backgrounds.

Useful experience

Useful experience for registered nurses includes:

  • work with children, families, the elderly or people with disabilities
  • social work or counselling
  • community support work
  • work in hospitals or health promotion
  • teaching.

Physical requirements

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.

Find out more about training

New Zealand Nurses Organisation
0800 28 38 48 - -
Nursing Council of New Zealand
(04) 385 9589 - -
Plunket Society
(04) 471 0177 - -
Check out related courses

What are the chances of getting a job?

Demand for registered nurses expected to grow

Demand for experienced registered nurses is good, and expected to continue growing due to:

  • increasing need for nursing care as the population ages
  • older nurses retiring – the New Zealand Nurses Organisation reports 50% of nurses will retire by 2035
  • funding in the 2019 Wellbeing Budget for nurses to work in mental health, addictions, child wellbeing, and on school-based programmes
  • an international shortage of nurses.

Aged care nurses are in particularly high demand. As a result, registered nurse (aged care) appears on Immigration New Zealand's long-term skill shortage list. This means the Government is actively encouraging skilled registered nurses from overseas to work in aged care in New Zealand.

According to the Nursing Council of New Zealand, the number of registered nurses rose from 55,000 in 2017 to 57,833 (including 2,500 enrolled nurses) in 2019.

Most registered nurse graduates find work in four months

It may take longer for graduates to find their first job.

However, 85% of nurses who graduated in November 2018 had a job as a registered nurse within four months of graduation, according to the Nursing Education in the Tertiary Sector organisation.

Chances of getting a job as a new graduate are best if you:

  • apply for roles through the Advanced Choice of Employment (ACE) programme or the Ministry of Health’s voluntary bonding scheme
  • are willing to work as a nurse in aged care, mental health, or community organisations such as Plunket – areas of high need
  • are willing to move to parts of New Zealand that need nurses most. 

Types of employers varied

About half of nurses are employed by district health boards. Others work for:

  • private hospitals
  • doctors' practices, family planning clinics and other community organisations such as Plunket 
  • rest homes and nursing homes
  • private health trusts and providers
  • prisons
  • schools.


  • Immigration New Zealand, 'Long-term Skill Shortage List', 27 May 2019, (
  • Ministry of Health, 'New Zealand's Nursing Workforce the Largest It's Ever Been' (media release), 11 May 2019, (
  • Ministry of Health, 'Sector Update re the Safe Staffing Accord', 27 March 2019, (
  • New Zealand Nurses Organisation, interview, October 2019.
  • New Zealand Nurses Organisation, 'NZNO Strategy for Nursing 2018-2023', accessed October 2019, (
  • New Zealand Nurses Organisation, 'Wellbeing Budget Will Require Nurses' (media release), 30 May 2019, (
  • Nursing Council of New Zealand, 'Annual Report for Year Ending 31 March 2018', accessed October 2019, (
  • Nursing Council of New Zealand, interview, October 2019.
  • Nursing Education in the Tertiary Sector, 'New Graduate Destinations (as at 31 April, 2019) From Graduates (30 November, 2018)', accessed October 2019, (

(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the sources of our job opportunities information)

Progression and specialisations

Registered nurses may progress to become:

  • charge nurses, who manage wards
  • clinical nurse educators, who provide further education to trained nurses and staff.

With further training, registered nurses may progress to become nurse practitioners. They diagnose and treat patients, prescribe medicine, and may run their own health clinics.

Nurses usually specialise in a role such as:

Aged Care Nurse
Aged care nurses provide nursing care for elderly people.
Community Health Nurse
Community health nurses provide nursing care and education in fields such as disease control, health promotion, and caring for refugee families or people with low incomes.
Critical Care and Emergency Nurse
Critical care and emergency nurses care for patients after surgery, and when injured or acutely ill, in intensive care units and emergency departments.
Mental Health and Addictions Nurse
Mental health and addictions nurses care for patients with emotional or mental problems and addictions. They may specialise in crisis assessment or telephone triage – assessing patients over the telephone.
Perioperative Nurse
Perioperative nurses care for patients before, during and immediately after surgery, assist surgeons and anaesthetists, and monitor patients' recovery from anaesthetic.
Plunket Nurse
Plunket nurses work with parents and caregivers. They advise on childcare and parenting, and assess the health and development of children under five.
Practice Nurse
Practice nurses work in general practitioners' surgeries and medical clinics. They may assist with immunisations, vaccinations and wound care, and provide general health advice.
A nurse looks at an inhaler while sitting on a sofa with an elderly man who has crutches

Nurses assess, support and care for people who are hurt or sick

Last updated 5 November 2019