How to land your dream nursing job

There’s a myth that primary health care is not for new graduates; that it’s where you go when you want to slow down or reduce your workload. ‘Nothing could be further from the truth’, says Jo Lewis, APNA member and Nurse Practitioner at the Kapunda & Eudunda Medical Practices in South Australia. ‘In fact, the skills required to provide exceptional care to patients in the community and aged care sectors, are in many ways more challenging than working in a hospital.’

If you want to be on the front line of Australian healthcare, where you’re the first contact that individuals have with the healthcare system, then primary health care could be the perfect place for you to start your nursing career. With our ageing population, there’s a growing need for skilled nurses in primary health care including aged care and home care, particularly in rural areas where there are not enough doctors.

As a new nurse, it can be difficult navigating your way into primary health care. But with a little preparation, a dash of determination and some guidance from the gurus at APNA—the peak body for nurses working in primary health care—you’ll be ready to dive headfirst into your dream nursing gig. 


Landing your dream job to-do list

  1. Identify your strengths

Complete a self-assessment and skills quiz with APNA’s My Nursing Future website. The online self-assessment will help you identify your strengths and areas to grow so you can:

  • fine tune your search for different career opportunities in primary health care
  • showcase your skills, knowledge and experience to your employer
  • identify areas you would like to develop your scope of practice
  • plan your continuing professional education

In the areas where you want to grow, you can undertake specific training such as immunisation, wound care, triage and infection control, either online or face-to-face using our APNA Online Learning store. When you join APNA as a member, one perk is that you gain access to over 200 hours of APNA’s online learning for free or at a discount.

  1. Write a great CV

Your CV is the first opportunity to make a good impression on a potential employer, which will increase your chances of getting a face-to-face interview. Be concise. Tailor all your skills, qualifications and experience to the job description, to show that you’re the best fit for the job.

If you’re a member of APNA, make sure to mention it in your CV. It illustrates your dedication to your career and the profession. More tips on improving your CV can be found on APNA’s My Nursing Future website.

  1. Leverage your work placement experience

Highlight what you’ve gained from your work placement in your graduate year. Don’t worry if it was completed in a hospital setting. You can still launch a successful career in primary health care without a primary health care placement. The key is in showing your aptitude in consolidating your skills.    

  1. Educate yourself

APNA runs two fantastic workshops that give new graduates the skills and a clear insight into what’s required in primary health care. APNA's Foundations of General Practice Nursing workshop was created for nurses new to the primary health care scene and provides an overview of the key knowledge and skills required by nurses in general practice. Whereas, APNA's Updates in Primary Health Care workshop delves into the intricacies of topics and issues you’ll be exposed to in primary health—from cardiovascular health to health coaching, there’s something new at each event. APNA members receive a $100 discount on both workshop registration fees. You can find details on the next workshop happening in your area by heading to APNA's online event calendar.

  1. Start networking

Networking with other nurses is invaluable, it allows you to build relationships and learn from others. APNA provides many networking opportunities across Australia which you can join. Visit APNA's network webpage to find a network in your local area. It’s a great starting point and someone might know about a job vacancy. Or get in touch with your local Primary Health Network (PHN) to see if they have their own local nurse network. You can find your local PHN on the Department of Health website.

Otherwise, if you’re an APNA member, you can join the supportive and active APNA Member-Only Facebook group. Every day, members pose and answer questions, helping guide each other’s career, as well as sharing a giggle over some silly work moment. It’s the perfect platform for you, a recently graduated nurse, to get the empowerment you need in your new role.

  1. Be a volunteer

Find an organisation where there are nurses willing to mentor you. Volunteer to shadow a nurse so you build experience and understanding on what’s involved. But do ensure you have your own indemnity insurance as you won’t be covered by the workplace. APNA members can access 12 months of professional indemnity insurance for just $110. You can read more about the APNA member insurance deal here.

Or you might want to consider applying for APNA’s Transition to Practice Program. The program provides an evidence-based framework of support over 12 months to nurses who have transitioned to primary health care and feel they would benefit from additional support. When we say support over 12 months, this means a workshop, online education, clinical and professional mentoring, a self-assessment tool and more. The program opens up once a year and you can find the application dates here. But something to be aware of, to apply for the program, you must be already working in a primary health care setting.

  1. Explore all the different sectors

As with any industry, what one person considers as a dream job might be the complete opposite for another. However, with primary health care nurses working across 16 different sectors, including community health, Indigenous health, correctional health, aged care and occupational health, there’s certainly a broad range of opportunities for you to find the right fit. Look deeper into all the different sectors in primary health care. Speak to nurses working in those areas and learn more from them.

In community health for example, nurses work with people from different cultures who are often disadvantaged and marginalised. In advocating how patients access care, they need to be patient and a good communicator who can take initiative in emergency situations.

In Indigenous health, nurses work closely with the Aboriginal health workers and practitioners, general practitioners, and other health professionals to assist with health assessments, health promotion and conducting care plans that are culturally safe.

Correctional health nurses work in a variety of settings such as jails, prisons, remand centres and juvenile detention. They’re the first health professionals that prisoners see when they enter detention, to assess and prioritise their health and medication needs. While patients are individuals who have committed crimes, correctional health nurses must be able to treat them with respect, compassion and understanding. 

For residential aged care, a key component of care involves communicating with the resident’s family. Some of the nursing activities include advocating for the health of residents, providing holistic care, care planning, wound care, chronic disease management, providing medication and liaising with other members of the interdisciplinary team.

To get a better understanding of the different sectors in primary health care, visit APNA’s My Nursing Future website.


Three questions to ask yourself when job hunting

by Jo Lewis, Nurse Practitioner and APNA member

Question #1

Do I want to work in a private or corporate-run organisation?

Different workplaces are run differently. Find out what’s the organisation’s model of care? Is the patient at the centre of care? What are its core values? Do they match yours?

Question #2

Do I want to work on my own or with a team?

Will you be the only nurse? Or will you be working with other nurses? As a new graduate, you can learn a lot more when mentored or working alongside senior nurses.

Question #3

Do I like job diversity?

Diversity is a huge part of primary health care nursing, where you learn new skills and take on new roles. If you love diversity, you’ll enjoy developing a great skillset. For example, you could possibly take on several of these six core roles in any one day:

1.         Clinical patient carer

2.         Patient care organiser

3.         Quality controller

4.         Problem solver

5.         Educator

6.         Connector


Top tips on how to prepare for your interview

by Kerry-Lee McBride, Finalist of the 2018 APNA Newly Graduated Nurse of the Year Award and APNA member

Tip #1

Do your research

Show your knowledge in the role you’re applying for and how you’d be a valuable team member.

Tip #2

Be passionate

You must be self-driven with a desire to learn and a great ability to multitask.

Tip #3

Be reflective

Look at your own practices, beliefs and experiences to draw on your strengths. Use examples from school, work or life.

Tip #4

Identify your weaknesses

Find those knowledge gaps and use resources to learn more.

Tip #5

Be yourself

Show your confidence and willingness to learn; sometimes that counts for more than experience.


If you need further career advice as a new nurse looking to move into primary health care, give APNA’s Nurse Support Line a call on 03 9322 9500. It’s a member-only service delivered by expert primary health care nurses and operates Monday-Friday, 9am-5pm. Nurses considering joining APNA are given one complimentary call—consider it a taster for one of the many perks of being an APNA member. 

Be part of your professional flock and watch your career soar. Join online as a member today for as little as $24.50 a month!

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