What does a clinical nurse do?

A clinical nurse may treat patients in a wide variety of wards and may define their specialisation by the population they treat, the setting they work in or the disease they are targeting. For example, a critical nurse could choose to work in oncology, gynaecology or as part of an emergency room unit. Clinical nurses are part of the senior nursing staff and are expected to work largely autonomously and take responsibility for decision-making and patient advocacy. Daily duties may include monitoring patients for changes in their condition, devising treatment plans, communicating with doctors and promoting health awareness in the general public. They may also be required to mentor graduate nurses.



  • Clinical decision making
  • Facility administration
  • Analysis and interpretation of clinical data
  • Staff and facility management
  • Conducting physical exams


What skills do I need to be a clinical nurse?

A clinical nurse deals with seriously ill or injured patients every day and the work can be very difficult – but highly rewarding. A clinical nurse needs an elevated sense of compassion, empathy and dedication. They treat a wide range of patients and perform tasks as diverse as basic wellness assessments to gynaecological and mental health exams. As they are responsible for distributing information throughout the hospital and educating other medical staff, patients and their families and the general public about health issues, advanced communication skills are essential.


  • Caring nature
  • Leadership skills
  • Organisational and administrative abilities
  • Problem solving skills
  • Decision making skills



Clinical nursing is a highly specialised field of nursing and there are many different study options that will allow you to tailor your career path to work in a field you a passionate about. Below are some popular clinical nursing careers:


Adult Psychiatric and Mental Health

The adult psychiatric clinical nurse delivers dedicated direct care services in psychiatric hospitals. They function as a primary therapist for both groups and individuals, as well as a mentor and educator for other staff members. The role requires registered nurse (RN) qualifications as well as post-graduate credentials in the relevant mental health area.

Child/Adolescent Psychological and Mental Health

Working with young children and teens with psychological and mental health issues, child/adolescent psychological and mental health clinical nurses are registered nurses (RN) who have successfully completed post-graduate mental health studies. They assess young people and their families, making comprehensive diagnoses and creating treatment plans. The role reports to a Mental Health Team Manager.

Diabetes Management

A diabetes management clinical nurse is a registered nurse (RN) who has successfully completed post-graduate requirements with a Graduate Certificate of Diabetes Education. Some career pathways include working as a diabetes educator or with the Australian Diabetes Educators Association (ADEA). They also work to educate patients and the public about diabetes.


Gerontology clinical nurses work in aged care and are registered nurses (RN) with post-graduate qualifications in gerontology and rehabilitation studies. Clinicians may work in senior clinical management, family care, and aged care facilities. They care for the physical, emotional and recreational needs of the elderly. Their skillset may include occupational therapy, physiotherapy, social work and dementia care.


A paediatric clinical nurse is a registered nurse (RN) who specialises in caring for infants, children and adolescents. They have completed a Graduate Certificate in paediatric nursing and are qualified to work in hospitals, community centres and clinics. Clinical paediatric nurses provide direct medical care for injured or ill children and also support their families.

Public and Community Health

Public and community healthy clinical nurses work in a variety of settings including hospitals, community homes and the private sector, caring for the needs of a diverse range of patients. The role’s key functions are health promotion and preventative health, disease management, treatment and care.

Study pathways for clinical nurses

There are opportunities for employment in the nursing industry at every level, from entry-level jobs requiring vocational training to specialised study for those pursuing high-level roles within the healthcare system.



Getting Started

These vocational courses will allow you to join the nursing profession in an entry-level role, such as Enrolled Nurse.



Skill Building

Study for career advancement. Qualify as a Registered Nurse or pursue a career specialisation.



Professional Development

These study options will enable you to pursue high-level employment options requiring extensive qualification or specialisation in a particular nursing field.



Industry Recognition

Nurses in Australia are required to register with the Nursing and Midwifery Board after completing their professional accreditation. Find out more about the professional requirements of the nursing industry in the Resources section.



Getting a job after graduation

Put your training to good use and get the best professional head start in your nursing career. Take a look at our sample resume and cover letter and put your best foot forward when you apply for health service jobs.



Job Prospects and Salaries

With our ageing population, Australia is experiencing a shortage of nursing staff. Professional opportunities are available at all levels and accredited nurses are highly sought after in remote and metropolitan areas nationwide.