The How To Guide for Australian Travel Nursing: Tips for Travel Nurses

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By Bree Parker

June 25, 2013

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The How-To Guide for Australia Travel Nurse

Getting Registered in Australia.

Are you considering Australian travel nursing?  Below you will find information on the process to begin Australian travel nursing to help you on your way.

The process of getting registered is a bit cumbersome, but once the applications are filled out, it’s just a matter of following the Agency’s instructions.

In Australia, Registered Nurses are registered through the Australian Health Practitioners Regulation Agency (AHPRA). There are offices in the capital city of each state. Although it’s a similar process to applying for licensure from state to state in the United States, the Agency has several additional requirements and fees for overseas applicants.

Firstly, the process is long. If you are considering traveling abroad in the next year, I’d recommend you start on the application immediately. When I sent my application to AHPRA, I was on assignment in Miami, Florida. I mailed it in early August knowing I had a flight scheduled to leave the United States in late October. By the time I had left, I hadn’t received any feedback from the Agency.

It was several months before AHPRA contacted me via email with a list of necessary documents Mine had not been specific enough for their requirements.

AHPRA requests verification of employment from your current job and certification of work experience for the past five years, plus a certification of your licenses from all states the nurse has been licensed in the past five years. Their requirements for letters from an employer are very specific: the length of time the nurse worked for the organization, whether it was full time or part-time, and it must be on company letterhead. A resume or CV is required as well with your signature on each page.

My waiting process was long due to the fact that I was in Australia when I received notification requesting more specific letters. All but one of my letters had left out “full or part-time”. AHPRA only accepts the original letters and mailing anything to Australia takes time.

I made several trips to the AHPRA office in Sydney over a few months. After I’d turned in all the required paperwork to what I’d hoped would be their satisfaction, I’d received another email asking for a letter from my high school stating my education was in English and requesting details of my clinical time.

My frustration peaked. I’d given the Agency transcripts of my undergraduate and graduate education, all in English and I’d graduated from high school over 19 years ago. It is my luck that my parents still live near my high school and were able to fetch such a letter.

When traveling abroad as a nurse, you are often required to take the IELTS or International English Language Testing System exam to provide evidence of education in English.

Australia allows exemption from such a test if you are from Canada, New Zealand, Republic of Ireland, South Africa, United Kingdom, or the United States of America. If you are a citizen of one of the above countries, you need to provide evidence of your education being taught in English.

I took the exam about two weeks prior to received my registration. My reason for taking it was to help with my visa process. I was warned the exam was difficult, but if your education was in English; the test was akin to an eighth-grade test.

The fees associated with the application for Australia are $576 AU. It’s difficult to find an exact fee for an applicant from overseas on the AHPRA’s website, they will contact you prior to charging your credit card.

I mailed my registration application in early August and I was granted registration in March. When I spoke to my recruiter, I was told that this is a typical timeframe.

Lessons learned

  • International mail is slow and expensive; keep that in mind when filing your application.
  • All letters must be specific as to when you worked for an organization. The letter must be on company letterhead, including the dates you worked, and your status: full time or part-time.
  • Include a letter from your high school or take the IELTS, academic module. You’ll need to score a minimum of 7 in all three categories.
  • Any paperwork forwarded to AHPRA must be certified. All forms can be found online.
    • What does this mean?
    • Along with the application, you are required to send a photocopy of your licenses from the past five years, passport, and transcripts. Each page needs to be certified as a copy of the original. You’ll have to see a notary and the seal must be on each page submitted. If you happened to be in Australia when you submit the application, the employees at AHPRA will certify your documents.
  • Understand that the process is long and frustrating. Read any communication from the Agency carefully. The Registration Agents will give you instruction. For example, when I submitted the letter from my University with my clinical hours detailed, the administrator writing my letter used the course title similar to this: Care of the Young Adult, theory hours 75, clinical hours 125, but the Registration Agent wasn’t able to determine what this meant. She stated I didn’t have Medical/Surgical clinical in Nursing school although I clearly had. The terminology isn’t the same in Australia. Makes communication in any form is as specific as possible.

After you have been registered, you can now apply for jobs.

You must be sponsored by an organization that is allowed to sponsor employees from overseas. Many positions are listed in forums such as this: http://nswhealth.erecruit.com.au/ or you can contact companies that will find jobs for you, like Plexus Medical or Geneva Health. The application process is very simple. You send in your resume and they’ll contact you for an interview.

  • When I was interviewed, it was just a few questions. The recruiter wanted to know where I was currently; in Australia or outside Australia. She asked after my experience and what I was looking for. Within a few days, I had an interview at a Private hospital near Sydney.
  • If you are out of the country, they will do a phone interview or a skype interview. Most recruiters are privy to job postings that have not been offered to the general public. If you chose not to go through an agency, the process is similar but more time-consuming. It takes much longer to hear back from these postings.
  • The process for applying for a job through the recruiting sites is very much the same as applying for travel positions.
  • When you have been offered a position, a migration specialist from your new employer will contact you to assist with applying for your work visa. They’ll be able to direct you to the correct visa application.
  • If for some reason, your organization doesn’t have a migration specialist, you can use the Visa Wizard on Australia’s Immigration website.
  • Visas have online applications and aren’t too difficult to fill out. If you are outside Australia, the processing time is currently three months.

One other interesting tidbit about Australian registration. Being registered as a nurse in Australia allows for registration to be transferred to New Zealand. Again, it’s similar to transferring your licenses from state to state.

Good luck if you chose Australian Travel Nursing. The process might be frustrating, but it will lead to the adventure of a lifetime!


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