Guest blogs · International Nurses' Day

What is it like to be a Student Nurse in… Australia?


Ben Jenkins


Newly Qualified Nurse


My name is Benjamin Jenkins. I’ve recently completed a Double Degree in Nursing/Paramedics at Monash University, Victoria, Australia. I am now close to three months into my Graduate Nursing Program within the Intensive Care Unit (ICU).

I am fortunate to care for some of the most critically ill patients; as the ICU I’m starting in is not only multi-specialty, but is a Major Trauma Centre for the state. The combined Double Degree has allowed me to combine my strengths from both the pre-hospital, and hospital settings; and fulfils my passion for critical care health care.


General Information about my training/How long is it?


Within Australia, there are 4 streams to becoming a Registered Nurse (RN):



  • Bachelor of Nursing (3 years)
  • Bachelor of Nursing/Bachelor of Emergency Health (Paramedic) (4 years)
  • Bachelor of Nursing/Bachelor of Midwifery (4 years)


  • Masters of Nursing (2 years)


The double degree options allow for the concurrent study of two separate degrees, within a shorter time-frame. For the double degree in Nursing/Paramedic, I graduate as both a Nurse, and a Paramedic. For me, I have elected to begin my career as a Registered Nurse in ICU, whilst some of my other friends have gone the pre-hospital route. In the future, those with double degrees can pursue their alternative degree if they choose.


Do you do general, or adult, or child?


Within Australia, everyone begins their nursing journey by studying a Bachelor (or Masters) of Nursing. There are no options of solely selecting ‘Paediatrics’ or ‘Adults’.
Everyone studies the same ‘core’ units, and must comply with the same standards.


Once you complete your degree, you apply for a Graduate Year. This is a formalised nursing program, offered by various hospitals, lasting 12 months. Some programs offer the same unit for 12 months, whilst others can rotate multiple times, between different units.

If you were interested in working in Paediatrics, you can apply for a Graduate Program within a Paediatric Hospital; where there is no ‘prior’ knowledge from your university studies.

What modules do you do?


For the Bachelor of Nursing, everyone completes the same ‘modules’, with some universities offering ‘elective’ subjects. These electives may involve Paediatrics, Communicable Diseases, Maternal Studies, Anatomy and Physiology etc. Whilst these are individual subjects, you do not graduate with a particular ‘Major’ or ‘Minor’ in any areas.

What did you learn each year?



My experiences of what I learned at certain stages of my degree with differ, not only because of my double degree, but due to the differences between universities and states.

Student nurses will learn the absolute foundations via:

  • Lectures (One academic speaking to the entire cohort in one room)
  • Tutorials (Small class sizes where you can ask questions to the academic, work through small-group activities)
  • Workshops (Simulation labs working on/learning skills)



First year is fairly generalistic. Student nurses may study alongside various ‘health’ students, such as first-year physiotherapists, paramedics etc, in subjects involving ‘Interprofessional Practice’.  The theory of core subjects revolves around ‘communication’, and prepare you with the foundations of how to write an evidence-based assignment at a tertiary level.


Second year is where you learn Pathophysiology, Pharmacology and Nursing Management of various conditions.


Third year is where you piece it all together, continuing to learn various conditions, however there is an emphasis on ‘Reflective Practice’ and ‘Research’.


Clinical Placement


My clinical placements were:


– Palliative Care – 1 Week (Y1)

– Neurological Ward – 2 Weeks (Y2)

– Oncology/Haematology – 4 Weeks (Y2)

– Mental Health (Crisis Assessment & Treatment Team (CATT)) – 4 Weeks (Y2)

– Theatre – 2 Weeks (Y3)

– Emergency Department (Y4)

– Community (Outpatients) – 2 Weeks (Y4)


As part of my double degree, I completed 300 hours on-road with the Ambulance Service on Emergency Callouts; as well as Paramedic Specialty Hospital Rotations in:

  • Paediatric Emergency – 2 days
  • Emergency Department – 4 days
  • Coronary Care Unit (CCU) – 2 days
  • Theatre – 4 days
  • Birth Suite – 4 days
  • Mental Health – 2 days

Dream Job


I am fortunate to work in the most amazing, rewarding and intellectually stimulating work environments that is the ICU. In my third-year of university, I received a Defence University Sponsorship by the Australian Army. Once I complete 2 years in my current ICU, I will commence my military service as a Nursing Officer within the Australian Army. There are so-many avenues to Nursing, especially within the Military, so I’ll hold-off on any specific ‘Dream Job’, as most likely, it may not exist yet.

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