Delivering a Healthy WA
Nursing and midwifery in Western Australia

A cartoon male and female nurse from the nursing campaignSpecialties

Burns

A burns nurse cares for patients who have suffered serious burns. This area of nursing focuses on burn types, burn assessment and management, surgical intervention, wound care, skin substitutes, rehabilitation, prevention and education.

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Cardiology

A cardiology nurse cares for patients who have disorders of the heart. Cardiology nurses can work in hospitals or they can work with patients in the home, assisting with cardiac drug monitoring and providing care to patients who have experienced heart problems. Cardiology nurses may have patients who have chest pain related to heart attack, have a heart defect or who have undergone heart procedures such as bypass, angioplasty, or pacemaker surgery.

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Community

A community health nurse works within specific communities or with a public health organisation. They develop health care systems that can be easily accessed by populations or they may work in government to effect policy change. A community health nurse must be skilled in health promotion/disease prevention, case management, planning, policy development, and working with culturally diverse populations.

For more information see community health.

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Continence

A continence nurse provides specialist advice and support to all professionals, children, adults and carers on all aspects of bladder and bowel problems.

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Diabetes education

Primary care doctors will refer their patients who are having difficulty controlling their diabetes to a diabetes educator. Diabetes education nurses teach patients the skills and knowledge they need to live with diabetes.

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Dialysis

A dialysis nurse administers a necessary, life-prolonging form of treatment in patients with end-stage renal (kidney) disease. Dialysis can be administered in a specialised hospital setting or patients can be set up with dialysis facilities at home. A dialysis nurse typically administers care to patients in an out patient setting.

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Education

Nurses and midwives working in an education setting (such as a university) teach other aspiring nurses/midwives about how to be a nurse/midwife. Alternatively, an education nurse/midwife working in a community or hospital setting may educate other nurses/midwives about new technologies or procedures and/or patients and their families about their diagnoses, treatments and preventative methods.

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Emergency

Emergency nurses provide care for patients in the critical or emergency phase of an illness or trauma, and must be able to recognise life-threatening problems and rapidly arrange necessary care. These nurses are not just limited to working in the emergency room of a hospital, i.e. medivac, Royal Flying Doctor Service, defence forces.

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Family health

Family health nurses/midwives work in clinics, community-based settings, long-term care facilities, and hospitals. They provide health promotion and disease prevention from childhood right throughout the aging process, and are trained to develop treatment plans for acute and chronic diseases. Some are also capable of providing specialty care such as gynaecological and perinatal care.

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Gerontology / aged care

Nurses in this field take care of elderly people and deal with diseases and problems specifically relevant to old age. This is usually done in aged care facilities, hospitals, community or nursing homes.

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Infection control

This area focuses on infectious disease control work usually in major health care facilities like hospitals and aged care facilities. In an effort to monitor and prevent the spread of drug-resistant infections, nurses working in this area serve as policy-makers, administrators, educators, consultants, researchers, and in other roles.

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Intensive care

Intensive care nurses care for patients of all ages who are acutely ill or who are in a critical condition. They often use sophisticated equipment, such as mechanical life support, and are responsible for the physical and emotional welfare of patients and their families.

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Management

A nurse/midwife manager usually supports the clinical unit/ward/department by providing information, assisting with personnel management, recruitment, and business planning/budget management. Nurse/midwife managers contribute to the strategic direction of the organisation, through unit business planning, and incorporates innovative management planning. Nurse/midwife managers develop services to enhance core business and respond to changing organisational needs.

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Medical nursing

Medical nurses work in hospitals, acute care units, home care, and long-term care facilities to provide care for patients with general medical conditions, including infectious diseases, asthma and pneumonia. They also attend to those who are being treated with pharmaceuticals (medications) to manage illness.

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Mental health

Mental health nursing is a specialised field that aims to provide care for people with mental illness or mental health problems. This occurs in partnership with the patients, their families, their partners and the community.

Mental Health Nurses can be ENs or RNs, but to become a specialist in mental health, you may be required to complete a postgraduate course. As a mental health nurse, you can specialise in caring for children and adolescents, adults, seniors, or those in the justice or prison systems.

Mental health nurses work closely with other professionals including psychiatrists, clinical psychologists, social workers, counsellors, medical doctors and occupational therapists.

Mental Health Nurses work in a variety of settings including:

  • general hospitals
  • specialised mental health hospitals or wards
  • emergency services
  • community mental health services
  • triage (telephone or face to face)
  • residential services
  • prisons
  • other organisations including mine sites, pharmaceutical sales, counselling
  • rural and remote areas

Useful Links:

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Neonatal intensive care

Nurses who specialise in this area care for newborn babies including premature births, newborns with health problems and newborns with acute, life-threatening illnesses.

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Nurse practitioner

For more information see about nurse practitioners.

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Occupational health

Occupational health nurses work in a wide range of settings, including government agencies, health care facilities, insurance companies, consulting firms, or within a given industry. Occupational health nurses work to ensure the continued health of working populations using both health promotion and the prevention of injuries and diseases.

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Oncology

Oncology nurses work in hospitals to provide care for patients with cancer who are chronically, acutely or terminally ill. They monitor their patients' physical conditions, administer medication such as chemotherapy, and formulate symptom management strategies. They provide education and emotional support for the patient and their family.

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Paediatric

A paediatric nurse cares for babies and children up to the age of 18 years. They assess children's medical and surgical nursing needs, provide emotional and family assessments and support; and plan and deliver care in hospitals, outpatient departments and in other locations, such as in transit between hospitals.

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Peri-operative

Peri-operative nurses assist with surgical procedures in operating theatres. They prepare patients for surgery, offering comfort and support and help to ensure a safe and effective experience. They assist with both minor and major surgery, such as heart transplants. Different positions within this specialisation include scrub nurses (who pass sterile instruments and supplies to surgeons) and circulating nurses (who work outside the sterile field). Peri-operative nurses are also responsible for looking after patients in the recovery room following their procedure.

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Plastic surgery

A plastic surgery nurse provides care for patients undergoing reconstructive or cosmetic procedures. These procedures range from small and elective, such as dermabrasion, to more complicated procedures such as facial reconstruction after an accident, skin graft care, or breast replacement after a mastectomy.

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Rehabilitation

Rehabilitation nurses work in hospitals and long-term care facilities. They help patients recover from debilitating injuries and diseases and also provide education and support for their patients as they move from the health care facility back into their daily lives.

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Remote area nursing

Remote area nurses practice in geographically isolated areas. They may be working at mining sites, in tourist resorts, in remote communities or at satellite clinics on pastoral properties. Because of the geographical isolation they often work independently, or as part of a small team and have to refer patients to other areas. The majority of remote area nurses are accessible to the population they care for, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

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Research

Research nurses/midwives work to improve patient care by translating research findings into practice innovations at the bedside. They are responsible for conducting research, analysing data, solving clinical problems, writing grants, and sharing their findings with the larger healthcare community.

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Rural nursing

Rural nurses/midwives practice in hospital and community settings outside of metropolitan and major towns. Rural nurses/midwives use critical thinking and decision-making skills. In many small rural hospitals, there will be one or two nurses and/or midwives rostered on each shift for the hospital. During unexpected events, such as an emergency, other staff will be called in to assist.

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School nurse

School based nurses work with primary and secondary students to help them make a safe transition into adulthood. They identify developmental problems and promote healthy behaviours and attitudes to students, which will hopefully continue through the students’ lives. School based youth health nurses undertake preventative activities with adolescents aged 12-18 years and their families and initiate and participate in the planning, implementation and evaluation of health promotion projects within the school setting.

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Surgical nursing

Surgical nurses provide care and support to patients before and after surgery. Surgical nurses work in many areas, such as orthopaedics (bones), neurosurgery (brain and spinal), plastic surgery and general surgery. They are responsible for pre-operative education, post operative monitoring of vital signs, attending to surgical wound dressings, rehabilitation, and discharge planning.

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Wound management

Wound care nurses support and care for individuals with stomas, vascular and pressure wounds, draining wounds, neuropathic wounds, and fistulas, and help their patients manage these conditions. They also provide other nurses education on appropriate wound care products.

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