How To Get Clinical Experience In Australia If You Completed Nursing Training Overseas, and Aren’t Eligible for a Graduate Program.

What if you have overseas nursing work experience, have completed a conversion course / APHRA assessment program so you can work in Australia, but you cannot secure the clinical experience you need so you can get agency or on-demand casual nursing work in a hospital?

Unfortunately giving on-demand work and casual nursing shifts to nurses who have less than 12 months clinical hospital experience is outside of the scope of the service that uPaged offers, but we are very aware of the dilemma this causes for overseas-qualified and sometimes very experienced nurses.

Please be aware that the 12-months minimum of clinical hospital experience in an Australian hospital is mandatory for every on-demand nurse whether with uPaged or a traditional nursing agency. On-demand nursing in hospitals is very much a speciality like any other in nursing, and if anything, it requires a higher standard than some other specialities because of the requirements to hit the ground running in an unfamiliar workplace and ward, often working unsupervised, and making high-level decisions in critical nursing situations.

There is some hope, however, this option does require hard work and persistence.

Waiting for a position to be advertised is not the only approach to take, and there is nothing stopping you from contacting a public or private hospital directly, outside of their normal recruiting periods.

This isn’t an option for the faint-hearted!

Phone or call into the hospital you wish to work at, speak to HR, ask to speak to the Director of Nursing, ask nurses you see on the premises for advice, and ask again, phone them, follow up - be persistent and keep following up - we cannot stress this enough.

Just asking once is NOT going to make the impact you need. Persistence is important, as is making sure you have a solid case for why they would employ you.

Key to this approach is identifying the areas in which you wish to gain clinical experience, and developing a strong case in your presentation to them for the HR Department or DON to evaluate your candidacy.

Ensure your resume and cover letter sell your skills, your experience, why they should employ, and your passion for what you want to do career-wise (obviously, this should match the values and mission of the hospital you are approaching).

In the Australian job market generally, 80% of jobs are in what is considered to be the ‘hidden job market’. What this means is that these jobs are not advertised - they are typically those jobs that a friend may tell you about because they heard was opening up at an organisation they know of. The reality of employment is that employers are more likely to employ people who are referred to them through someone they already know and trust, so building up your network, and letting the people you know (regularly) that you are available for nursing jobs, is critical for this to work.

Internships or volunteering work may be available in your local hospital so phone them up and ask. Ask to speak to HR department and ask their advice based on your situation.

As noted above, key to this approach is identifying the areas in which you wish to gain clinical experience, and developing a strong case for the HR Department or DON to evaluate your candidacy. Ensure your resume and cover letter sell your skills, your experience, your passion for your chosen specialisations, and their hospital. It’s not unheard of for interns to make the short-list for hire when hospitals start recruiting, because they know the ins and outs of the facility already.

Casual pool may be an option for a hospital, particularly if you have some hospital experience overseas and can add value to them. You could suggest that you shadow someone else on a shift, volunteer on a shift etc, until you gain the experience you need, and the hospital has gained the confidence they need in you, to place you in a more permanent position.

Don’t forget to cast your net wide with this approach - consider rural hospitals, small private hospitals, busy large hospitals who may need a large volunteer or casual pools, and leverage your network wherever you can.

Don’t be picky about the wards you ask for internships, volunteering or shadowing to work in. Another consideration is to find out what wards on the hospitals you are targeting are the least favoured or have the highest staff turnover. These wards may provide opportunities to get work in the hospital of choice, and enable you to transition elsewhere in that hospital after a period of time.

Clinical experience has to start somewhere, and it may be that you cannot get the experience you want immediately. but by planning a pathway to where you want to be, you will get their quicker.

What To Do In The Meantime?

Don’t give up! Persistence, luck, and diligence are the best friend of every job seeker, irrespective of profession.

Don’t rely solely on job posting websites - many jobs never even get to that stage. One great source of job leads may come from your own network of friends and family. You might also tap into your former uni/college connections and alumni office to inquire about career leads. To give yourself the best chance to find that first nursing job you should actively put yourself out there. 

Build Up Your Network

While the idea of networking might make many shudder, it’s still a valuable tactic for building connections - in the real world  and the virtual - and its best approached in a structured way.

A great place to start is on LinkedIn. Build up a professional LinkedIn profile, connect with like-minded industry professionals, your university alumni, nurses you’ve met through prac, and  participate in groups that are linked to nursing in Australia - contribute advice where you can, and seek it when needed.

Nurses also hang out on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, so get social, and build up your connections base, and make sure you ask about forthcoming opportunities and the experience of your peers in securing places on PPTs - there is a wealth of information out there.

Professional development opportunities abound through AHPRA and NMBA, as do nursing events linked to specific specialisation and hospitals and these can be a great way to tap into industry know-how while building on your industry know-who.

Be Prepared

Never underestimate the power of a great resume, or the panic that sets in when you’re asked to send one to someone at short notice! 

Make sure yours is focused not just on what you did (the action you took) during prac and your roles to date, but also provide evidence of the outcomes of the work you have done (the results), and in the context of the situation you were working in and the challenges you encountered on the job at the time. Make sure yours is kept up-to-date so you have it at hand in case a role appears at short notice.

For great free tips on how to structure your resume, pop on over to CV Saviour, (founded by a nurse!)

If you are relying on advertised positions only as your job search strategy, you will only be seeing 20% of the jobs that are available.

What Next

The job outlook for registered nurses is very positive, according to the Australian Government Job Outlook Guide.

Once you’ve got that first year under your belt, uPaged is here to help you to find the very best nursing role to suit your timetable, lifestyle, specialty and career path.

To learn more about Australian Graduate Nurse Programs, follow this link.