Living Down Under: How to Practice as a NP in Australia

Australia not only boasts golden sandy beaches, tropical rainforests, snowy mountains and deserts with a mild, year-round climate but a laid back lifestyle for which its residents pride themselves on. With a strong economy, a low unemployment rate and a culture of work-life balance, it’s no wonder the land down under is an attractive destination for Americans looking to live abroad. If you’re a nurse practitioner thinking of making the move, you’re in even more luck. Not only is the NP role in Australia is practically identical to that of the U.S., but the overall processes for relocating and practicing as a NP is pretty straightforward too.  

The NP Role in Australia

As defined by the Australian College of Nurse Practitioners (ACNP), NPs in Australia are registered nurses with the experience and expertise to diagnose and treat people of all ages with a variety of acute or chronic health conditions. They can practice autonomously in a variety of locations, both in hospitals and community settings.

Their scope of practice allows them to perform advanced physical assessments, order diagnostic tests and interpret the results, initiate referrals to relevant healthcare providers, and prescribe appropriate medications and other therapies as needed throughout all states and territories in Australia. Having completed a Master’s degree, they are esteemed as the most senior clinical nurses in the country’s health care system.

Practicing as an NP in Australia

While the process to relocate and continue practicing as an NP in Australia is simple (especially by comparison to other countries) there are a few actionable steps you’ll want to take before you make any irreversible decisions. In other words, don’t up and quit your current job and sell off your possessions just yet.  

According to the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia (NMBA), internationally trained NPs should take the following steps to ensure they’re eligible to live and work in Australia as a nurse practitioner.

Assess your ability to meet the registration requirements

All NPs in Australia are required to be endorsed by the NMBA in order to practice. As an international NP, the country requires that you first obtain registration as an RN with the NMBA before you can apply for the nurse practitioner endorsement.

Before you start the application to be recognized as an RN, because your application will be assessed against a specific set of criteria, it’s important that you make sure you meet the registration requirements for international RNs. The criteria relates specifically to the nursing program you graduated from so as to ensure that your education is equivalent to an Australian bachelor degree in nursing. Then, once you’ve determined your nursing education is up to par, it’s also important to check that you’ll be able to meet the board’s registration standards and requirements to be eligible for an endorsement as an NP, as well as review the supplemental guidelines.

Going over each of these in advance of submitting an application will ensure the likelihood that you’ll receive recognition to practice as an NP.

Assess your ability to meet the immigration requirements

The Australian Nursing and Midwifery Accreditation Council (ANMAC) is an independent organization authorized by the Minister of Immigration to assess the skills of internationally qualified nurses and midwives who want to migrate to Australia under the General Skilled Migration program; the country’s immigration program for which is aimed at skilled workers in particular occupations (including nursing) who are willing to migrate to Australia.

The ANMAC uses five assessments to determine whether an internationally trained nurse is suitable for migration and eligible for a Visa. Because their process is separate from the NMBA’s, it’s equally important that you make sure you can also meet their requirements as well. In some cases, international NPs may be approved for skilled migration but may not meet the NMBA’s registration requirements and vice versa.

Submit an application form to the AHPRA

Once you’ve checked to see if you can meet the requirements set forth by both the NMBA and the ANMAC, you can more confidently proceed in submitting an application form to the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA), which assess applications for registration from internationally qualified nurses on behalf of the NMBA. Then, the NMBA will make the final decision on your application for registration as an RN. Once the NMBA has assessed whether you meet the requirements for registration as a nurse, you can then apply to be endorsed as a nurse practitioner.

Finally, once you’ve received registration with the NMBA and have been endorsed as a nurse practitioner, you can then apply for immigration to Australia and begin seeking out employment opportunities as an endorsed NP.