What Is a Certified Nurse? (With Steps to Become One)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 6 April 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Nurses are professionals who care for individuals, families, groups or communities. They may provide care in various health care settings. Learning about a nurse's duties can help you make more informed career choices and decide whether this is the right career for you. In this article, we answer the question, 'What is a certified nurse?', discuss what they do, explain where they work and provide a step-by-step guide on how to become one.

What is a certified nurse?

The answer to 'What is a certified nurse?' is that they're a trained health care professional who works with ill and injured patients. Nurses care for their patient's physical and mental well-being by monitoring their vitals, administering medical care and answering a patient's questions. They provide emotional support by encouraging their patients, listening to their concerns and comforting them when they're upset. A certified nurse goes through approved training pathways to become registered to practise with the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia (NMBA).

Working as a nurse can be a satisfying career for someone who enjoys helping people heal and feel better, is calm in emergencies and has good people skills. Here are some of the general duty requirements of a certified nurse:

  • Assessing patients: A nurse performs different assessments that may include the initial, focused, time-lapsed, and emergency assessment.

  • Developing a nursing care plan: Each patient has a care plan that covers existing needs and potential risks or complications.

  • Administering medicine: Nurses administer medication orally, via suppositories, injections or through intravenous drips.

  • Providing specialised nursing care: Nurses may choose to work in specific areas of health care and learn skills directly related to that branch of medicine.

  • Working in multidisciplinary teams: A nurse is one of a group of health care workers from different teams who each provide individual services to a patient towards their health care goals.

  • Supervising junior nurses: Certified nurses may take on a mentorship role towards junior nurses to guide them in their professional health care journey.

  • Undertaking regular professional development: Nurses may regularly update their medical knowledge, take on further studies to increase specialisation or branch out to a wider variety of disciplines.

  • Promotion to leadership roles: A certified nurse is eligible for promotion to the position of nursing manager or team leader.

How to become a certified nurse

Here are a few steps you can follow to become a certified or registered nurse:

1. Complete your high school certificate (HSC)

Complete your HSC with a suitable Universities Admission Index (UAI) or Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR). Taking subjects such as English, Maths and at least one science subject is typically a requirement for admission. A universities admission centre can advise you on entry prerequisites for that specific institution.

2. Earn a bachelor of science in nursing

Most universities offer a three-year Bachelor of Nursing course for full-time students. They may offer part-time registered nursing courses for those who are working and studying at the same time. Studying nursing typically includes theory and practical clinical experience working in various settings, such as surgical wards, operating theatres, emergency departments and intensive care.

3. Get a state licence as a certified nurse

After graduating with a nursing degree, apply to the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) for a state licence. A licence allows you to practise as a nurse. A state nursing licence also serves as a confirmation of your competence as a medical professional.

4. Pursue specialisations

Consider earning a master's degree or doctorate in your chosen area of speciality. Nursing training offers exposure to a wide variety of nursing disciplines and environments. Broad experience such as this may help highlight a single area of interest that could lead to focused study towards a master's degree or doctorate.

Soft skills for a certified nurse

Soft skills are traits and learned abilities over and above medical knowledge that help nurses take better care of their patients. The soft skills worth developing for a nurse are:

  • Communication: Nurses communicate with other medical staff, their patients and their patient's families. An effective nurse can communicate medical facts clearly with compassion and empathy.

  • Attitude and confidence: A positive attitude is an important part of working as a nurse, as patients benefit from their hopeful outlook. Confidence in communication may help them convey vital patient updates in critical moments that could save time.

  • Teamwork: Health care depends on a team of medical personnel working together to ensure that each patient receives the best possible care. Working as part of a team ensures each patient receives holistic treatment.

  • Networking: Nurses who network benefit from relationships within their field that help them pursue their professional health care goals, provide encouragement and mutual help.

  • Critical thinking and creative problem solving: Nurses work in a challenging patient care environment that often requires them to approach situations and the people they work with from unique angles to solve issues that can make a difference to their patient's well-being.

  • Professionalism: Professionalism in a nurse is important to set their patient's and their families at ease. Combining professionalism with warmth creates an environment that may help patients feel at ease while they heal.

  • Empathy: A sense of empathy for their patients may be a motivating factor for nurses to do everything within their knowledge to facilitate healing.

  • Conflict resolution: The ability to manage conflict is useful for working with difficult patients and persuading them to comply with their treatment plan.

  • Adaptability: For a nurse, adaptability applies to being flexible in their day-to-day challenges, as well as a long-term ability to embrace new technology and methods of doing things.

  • Initiative and a strong work ethic: Nurses with a good work ethic who take initiative and act when they see something that needs attending to create an environment that makes their patient's healing a priority.

  • Critical thinking: A nurse's ability to think critically has a direct impact on patient care, as it involves recognizing shifts in a patient's status and quick action when something isn't right.

  • Social perceptiveness: Social perceptiveness is the ability to get in touch with what someone is feeling by observing their body language. It's a soft skill that allows a nurse to show empathy to patients and provide support during emotional experiences. It enables a nurse to provide counselling and health care.

Related: Nursing Skills (Definition and Examples)

Where do nurses work?

A certified nurse may work in the public health sector or in private health care practice. Many nurses adapt easily between the different requirements of each health focus and enjoy the variety of working in different areas for short periods. Others find their passion and choose to remain in one area of health care. Some of the common settings for nurses to work include:

  • public hospitals

  • private hospitals

  • emergency care

  • aged care

  • general practice clinics

  • community health services

  • schools

  • rural and remote communities

Related: What Is a PRN Nurse? (With Duties, Skills and Salary)

What can a certified nurse specialise in?

Trained certified nurses may choose to specialise in various areas within the medical field. Nurses can decide on what area they wish to focus on during their educational degrees and work placements. Certified nurses may also specialise in disciplines that are less directly in touch with patients, such as health administration, education or research. Some of the specialised areas a nurse can work include:

  • paediatrics

  • aged care

  • rehabilitation

  • surgical nursing

  • oncology

  • rural and remote

  • intensive care

  • community health

  • mental health

  • medical nursing

Related: How to Become Director of Nursing (With Step Guide)

How much can a certified nurse earn?

The national average salary for a certified nurse is $76,161 per year. Nurses who work at hospitals often work in shifts that differ from regular office hours. Some nurses work night shifts, which means they often sleep while their families are awake. Nurses who work in doctors' rooms or clinics may work hours that are closer to regular office hours.

Related: 10 Highest Paid Nurses in Australia (With Salaries And Duties)

What are other types of nurses?

Being a certified nurse is one option for those interested in a career in patient care, but there are also many other types of nursing jobs available. Here are some possibilities:

  • Enrolled nurse: Enrolled nurses work under supervision and may measure and record patients' vital signs, report any changes to doctors, assist patients with hygiene and comfort and help in emergency situations.

  • Assistant in Nursing (AINs): AINs work under a registered nurse's supervision to assist with patient hygiene. They may work as aged care workers, personal care assistants, care support employees or health service assistants.

  • Clinical nurse: A clinical nurse is a certified nurse who has completed additional studies in a specialised field and worked in that field for years.

  • Midwife: Midwives work with women to give them support, advice and care during pregnancy, childbirth and after the baby is born.

  • Nurse practitioners: Registered nurses who have completed additional studies have a minimum of three years post-registration experience and a 'Clinical Support' form that enables them to refer patients to other health care professionals, prescribe medications and order diagnostic investigations.

Salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries at time of writing. Salaries may vary depending on the hiring organisation and a candidate's experience, academic background and location. Please note that none of the companies mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

Explore more articles