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Registered Nurse

Tapuhi Whai Rēhitatanga

Alternative titles for this job

Registered nurses assess, treat, care for and support patients in hospitals, clinics, residential care facilities and their homes.


Nurses with up to five years’ experience usually earn

$47K-$68K per year

Senior nurses with more experience and responsibility usually earn

$68K-$114K per year

Source: New Zealand Nurses Organisation, 2015.

Job opportunities

Chances of getting a job as a registered nurse are good for those with experience, but graduates may take some months to find work.


Pay for registered nurses varies depending on experience, duties and responsibilities.

  • New graduate nurses earn about $47,000 a year. 
  • Those with three to five years' experience can earn between $54,000 and $68,000.
  • Senior nurses with more experience and responsibility can earn between $68,000 and $114,000.

Source: New Zealand Nurses Organisation, 'Multi-Employer Collective Agreement 24 August 2015 to 31 July 2017', 2015.

(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the sources of our pay information)

What you will do

Registered nurses may do some or all of the following:

  • assess, plan, co-ordinate and carry out nursing care to improve patients' health
  • administer patients' immunisations, medication and intravenous drugs
  • monitor and assess patients' conditions and record changes
  • visit and educate patients, their families and community groups about health needs, long term effects, and prevention of accidents and illness
  • work with other health professionals, community organisations, employers and government agencies to meet the needs of patients' caregivers, whānau and supporters.

Enrolled nurses provide care to patients under the direction of a registered nurse or nurse practitioner.

Charge nurses manage the ward, co-ordinate and hold responsibility of the nurses and multi disciplinary team (MDT).

Clinical nurse educators provide speciality education to nurses and staff.

Nurse practitioners are expert nurses in a specialist area of practice. They assess, diagnose and treat patients, and also prescribe medications. Some may run their own health clinics.

Skills and knowledge

Registered nurses need to have:

  • excellent nursing skills and knowledge of different nursing methods
  • excellent time management 
  • knowledge of how the human body works
  • knowledge of different diseases and illnesses
  • knowledge of medicines and treatments, and the effects these have on patients
  • the patient's best interests in mind and advocate on their behalf
  • an ability to assess and monitor patients' conditions and symptoms
  • cultural competency to work with people of different cultures and ethnicities.

Working conditions

Registered nurses:

  • work shifts of eight to 12 hours on any day and at any time if they are employed at hospitals, rest homes or nursing homes. Those working in the community or at medical centres usually work 40 hours a week
  • may have to work in stressful situations, and may come into contact with diseases and bodily fluids
  • may travel within their region to visit clients.

What's the job really like?

Parehuia Maxwell

Parehuia Maxwell

Whānau Hauora Nurse

Working with a wide range of people in the community

As a whānau hauora (family health) nurse, Parehuia Maxwell works with a range of people in the community through clinics and home- or marae-based visits. "I get out into the rural areas of Gisborne and I love my job. We don't diagnose illnesses, but we provide screenings that include measuring blood pressure, glucose levels and weight. "We look after people from the age of five upwards, but the majority of our clients are elderly. Supporting our kaumātua is important."

Positive relationships with patients key to the job

For Parehuia, building positive relationships with her patients is a really important part of keeping them healthy. "What I like most is passing on information and supporting the whānau. You've got to be able to talk to everyone, not just one person, because often you're talking to the whole whānau and giving them peace of mind.

"Sometimes you get people turning up on your back doorstep who want you to come and see someone, but that's the great thing about the job – when they feel comfortable with me and there are no barriers. If people don’t come and seek advice from me then I'm not doing my job properly."

Parehuia Maxwell's hapū is Ngāti Maru and her iwi is Rongowhakaata.

Registered nurse video

Find out about being a prison nurse – 8.37 mins. (Video courtesy of Just the Job)

Farisha: Hi, my name is Farisha, I’m a third year nursing student and I want to check out what nursing is like in a prison.

Clinton: Farisha is going inside Spring Hill Corrections Facility – one of 20 prisons in New Zealand…

Kirsten: Hi Farisha…

Clinton: …to meet Kirsten Harrison, a nurse at Corrections.

Clinton: Nurses at Corrections provide the same range of health care to prisoners as nurses do in the community – that is, they maintain the health and well-being of prisoners.

Kristen: We’ve just got a few things you need to look out for. Some people can be pretty manipulative, so just be careful with the questions you’re asked. Ok? But you’re safe, you’ve always got someone with you, security officers are around – you’ll be fine.

Clinton: There are risks working in this environment. But Corrections know the risks, and manage them.

Farisha: So what’s the main difference between working on the outside and working here?

Kirsten: Well when you’re working in a hospital as a nurse, you’re in a more specialised environment, whereas when you’re working here, we do a variety of things – from accident and emergency right through to general practice and primary healthcare.

Clinton: There are about 9,000 prisoners in New Zealand and nurses help with the ultimate goal of reducing re-offending by focusing on the offender’s health and wellbeing.

Farisha: So what kind of skills help in this kind of work?

Kirsten: In this environment, I think life experience is really, really important, also having a wide variety of skills. You need accident and emergency and you also need knowledge in long-term medical conditions as well. So we’re just going to go and give a prisoner his medication now, OK?

You need to make sure that you’ve got the right prisoner first – he needs to be facing you with a glass of water, OK? Put the medication in his hand, he’s got to swallow that medication and you need to check his mouth to make sure he’s swallowed it. OK?

Farisha: OK, yep. Is there anything I should be careful of?

Kirsten: Just stand a little bit back from the cell door when the officer first opens it – you can get an impression of his mood.

Guard: Medication, Blue.

Prisoner: Morning guys!

Farisha: Morning, how are you today?

Prisoner: Morning, how are you? Are you new?

Farisha: Yes, I’m new.

Farisha: I’ve got your morning medication.

Kirstin: You must make sure that he’s got his hand out, with his cup of water in his other hand, OK?

Kirsten: Alright.

Farisha: So we’ve got your ibuprofen here.

Prisoner: OK.

Prisoner: Ta.

Kirsten: Lovely, thank you.

Farisha: Thank you.

Kirsten: Well I applied for a job at the Department of Corrections because it provided me with a challenge – also a really good environment to use the skills that I’ve learnt over the last few years of being nurse, and the hours are really good, they fitted in with my family, better than working shift work – you know, night shifts, and the opportunity to progress in my nursing career.

Clinton: Every new prisoner like Dylan gets an initial health check.

Kirsten: One of the really important things for us is that we’re working with people that may never have had access to adequate healthcare before, so they often arrive really, really unwell.

Kirsten: Do you have any history of any depression or anxiety in the last twelve months at all?

Dylan: Nah, not really.

Kirsten: And we move through the treatment process and they get to the end of their sentence, and they’re quite healthy, they’re quite well, so that’s quite rewarding.

Clinton: While Kirsten shows Farisha how it’s done, they find a problem.

Farisha: I’m going to take your heart rate. [notices his arm is injured]. Is it sore?

Dylan: I was just playing basketball this morning, and I fell over.

Kirsten: Ok. Did you hear a crack, or anything like that, when you landed on it?

Dylan: No, sort of my elbow went back.

Kirsten: What I’m going to do is get Farisha to put that arm in a sling.
The main challenge is the environment we are working in. People aren’t free to move about, so that’s a big challenge. And also a person’s willingness to accept care, and to accept help as well. You have behavioural issues that can provide a barrier to delivering really effective medical care.

Dylan: Thanks Miss!

Kirsten: No problem.

Clinton: Male and female prisoners are housed in different prisons. Kirsten now takes Farisha to Auckland Region Women’s Correctional Facility to see how nurses with the Department of Corrections deal with women’s health issues on the inside.

Kirsten: We’re dealing with women here, so you’ve got health issues specific to women – so gynaecology and pregnancy-related issues. Often in the community they’re very unwell, they haven’t been cared for adequately. So our job is to bring them back to optimum health while they’re here.

Farisha: So what kind of person would be good for this job?

Kirsten: You need to be really tolerant, patient and kind and also leaving your prejudice at the door.

Clinton: Now it’s Farisha’s turn to do an initial health check of new prisoner, Mary.

Guard: Where would you like your prisoner?

Kirsten: Just over here, thank you.

Farisha: My name is Farisha, I’m one of the student nurses. How are you today?

Mary: Good thank you.

Farisha: Is it OK if I do your healthcare assessment with you?

Mary: That’s alright.

Farisha: Ok, so what it involves, I’ll just ask you some questions, and whatever the answer is, I will just type in.

Farisha: Have you had any screenings done before?

Mary: I had it last year.

Farisha: Have you taken medication for mental health?

Farisha: And there’s some more questions for you.

Farisha: Have you had unprotected sex before?

Mary: Um, yes.

Farisha: Yes? OK. So do you think you might be pregnant?

Mary: Yeah I might be, but I’m not sure.

Farisha: OK, so we’ll just do a urine test, just to do a pregnancy test on you, and if you are pregnant, we can go on from there for further testing. So is that OK with you?

Mary: Yep, not a problem.

Farisha: OK.

Clinton: Being a nurse means helping people deal with emotional news.

Kirsten: OK Mary, we’ve done this test and it’s saying that it’s positive, OK?

Mary: What?! Oh my God!

Kirsten: It’s ok.

Mary: But what am I going to do? That means I’m gonna have this baby in here! Oh.

Kirsten: How long are you going to be here for?

Mary: Three and a half.

Kirsten: Three and a half years? OK, so you will be having your baby while you’re here. Alright? But don’t worry about it at the moment, we’ve got a midwife ok, the midwife will take care of your pregnancy care.

Mary: Is there a possibility that I can keep baby in here?

Kirsten: Yes there is. We’ve got a mother and baby unit here.

Clinton: Prisoners who meet certain criteria may have the opportunity to keep their baby with them for a certain period of time in one of the purpose-built Mother and Baby Units.

Kirsten: It’s more than just patching the person up and getting them out the door. We’re looking at the person as a whole and we’re dealing with a really vulnerable population here, so one of the things that I enjoy about working here is that very thing – it’s educating and promoting and helping a person be able to take care of themselves. And that’s why I really love my job.

Farisha: I really like helping people, especially in this vulnerable environment, and I think this will be a really good nursing role for me in the future.

Clinton: Useful school subjects for people wanting to become a nurse at Corrections include science, biology, statistics, English, te reo Māori and health.

To become a nurse you will first need a nursing degree which takes three years to complete.

Then to become a nurse at Corrections you must be registered with the Nursing Council of New Zealand, displaying adequate primary health care experience, have a current practising certificate, and have a full current driver license. The Department of Corrections does offer a number of graduate nursing positions whereby you can gain experience working for the department.

On application you need to declare any criminal convictions, and offences may affect your selection.

Entry requirements

To become a registered nurse you need to have one of the following:

  • Bachelor of Nursing
  • Bachelor of Health Sciences
  • Postgraduate Diploma in Nursing.

You also need to:

  • pass an assessment of Nursing Council Competencies for Registered Nurses
  • pass the Examination for Registered Nurses set by the Nursing Council of New Zealand
  • register with the Nursing Council of New Zealand and have a current Annual Practising Certificate.

Enrolled nurse entry

To train as an enrolled nurse you need to complete a Diploma in Enrolled Nursing. Enrolled nurses have a limited scope of practice and work under the supervision of a registered nurse or nurse practitioner.

Nurse practitioner entry

To become a nurse practitioner you need to have:

  • a Master's Degree in nursing or health science that involves 300 hours of supervised on-the-job training, and sit a nurse practitioner practicum (exam) which appears on the list of qualifications approved by the Nursing Council of New Zealand
  • at least four years' nursing experience in a specific area of practice 
  • passed a Nursing Council assessment for nurse practitioners.

The Vulnerable Children Act 2014 means that if you have certain serious convictions, you can’t be employed in a role where you are responsible for, or work alone with, children.

Secondary education

NCEA Level 3 is required to enter tertiary training. Useful subjects include maths, English, biology, chemistry and physics.

Additional requirements for specialist roles:

Plunket Nurse

To become a Plunket nurse you must complete the Postgraduate Certificate in Primary Health Care Specialty Nursing (Level 8) through Whitireia New Zealand, after you have been working for six months as a registered nurse.

Practice Nurse

Practice nurses must have:

  • a current cardio-pulmonary resuscitation (CPR) certificate
  • a certificate of competence in vaccinations or cervical screening, if they are performing those duties.

Personal requirements

Registered nurses need to be:

  • good at communicating
  • skilled at problem solving
  • organised
  • able to work well under pressure and remain calm in emergencies
  • able to keep information confidential
  • able to show compassion, and relate to people from various cultures and backgrounds
  • patient and helpful.

Useful experience

Useful experience for registered nurses includes:

  • work with young children, families, the elderly or people with disabilities
  • social work
  • counselling
  • community support work
  • hospital-based work
  • health promotion or other health-related work
  • teaching.

Physical requirements

Registered nurses need to be reasonably fit, as they may have to spend long periods on their feet, and sometimes have to lift patients.


Nurses need to be registered with the Nursing Council of New Zealand and have a current Annual Practising Certificate.

Find out more about training

New Zealand Nurses Organisation (NZNO)
0800 28 38 48 - -
Nursing Council of New Zealand
(04) 385 9589 - -
Plunket Society
(04) 471 0177 - -
Check out related courses

What are the chances of getting a job?

Job opportunities best in the West Coast and South Canterbury

Chances of finding work as a registered nurse are good for experienced nurses and for nurses who choose to work in the West Coast and South Canterbury.

Graduate programme available

The best way to get a nursing job as a new graduate is to apply for a new entry to practice (NETP) or nursing entry to specialist practice (NESP) position through the advanced choice of employment (ACE) programme. Employers in this programme provide support for graduates in their first year of nursing work.

Otherwise, it can take graduate nurses three to 12 months to find work, with more opportunities in aged care nursing.

Ageing population creates demand

New Zealand's ageing population has created a demand for nurses as:

  • there is increased demand for healthcare as people get older
  • more nurses are approaching retirement age – the average age of nurses is over 50 in some specialist areas of work.

Registered nurse (aged care) appears on Immigration New Zealand's long-term skill shortage list. This means the Government is actively encouraging skilled registered nurses from overseas to work in New Zealand. 

Types of employers varied

About half of nurses are employed by district health boards in hospital and community settings. Others work for:

  • private hospitals
  • primary health organisations and primary care settings, such as doctors' practices and family planning clinics
  • rest and nursing homes (aged residential hospital care)
  • non-government organisations, such as Plunket (community child health)
  • private health trusts and providers
  • prisons
  • schools.

Nurses can be contracted to work for private families, such as for patients going on holiday and need extra support or for patients that need 24 hour care.

Voluntary bonding scheme

The Ministry of Health runs a voluntary bonding scheme aimed at recruiting more graduate nurses to work in specialist areas that are hard to staff.

Graduates are bonded for three years and after this they receive extra payments for up to five years.


  • Careers New Zealand research, May 2017.
  • Immigration New Zealand, 'Long Term Skill Shortage List', 27 May 2019, (
  • Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, '2006-2014 Occupation Data' (prepared for Careers New Zealand), 2015.
  • Ministry of Health, 'Recruitment of new graduate registered nurses', May 2017, (
  • Nursing Council of New Zealand, Careers New Zealand interview, May 2017, (
  • Schwalger, M, registered nurse, Canterbury District Health Board, Careers New Zealand interview, May 2017.

(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the sources of our job opportunities information)

Progression and specialisations

After at least five years working as a registered nurse you may progress to the positions of senior nurse or nurse manager, and manage other nurses.

Nurses usually specialise in an area such as:

Aged Care Nurse
Aged care nurses provide nursing care to the elderly in the community, as well as in residential aged care facilities, retirement villages and health care facilities.
Community Health Nurse
Community health nurses provide nursing care and education to individuals and groups in the wider community. They may specialise in a particular area of community health such as disease control, health promotion, caring for refugee families or housing project work.
Critical Care and Emergency Nurse
Critical care and emergency nurses work with patients following injury or surgery, or during the acute phase of diseases, in places such as intensive care units or emergency departments.
Mental Health and Addictions Nurse
Mental health and addictions nurses care for patients with emotional, mental and psychological problems. They may also specialise in crisis assessment or telephone triage, which involves assessing mental health needs and risks based on symptoms reported to them over the telephone.
Perioperative Nurse
Perioperative nurses care for patients before, during and immediately after surgery. They plan nursing care, maintain a safe and comfortable environment, assist surgeons and anaesthetists during surgery and monitor patients' recovery from anaesthetic before and after surgery.
Plunket Nurse
Plunket nurses provide support to parents by giving advice on childcare and parenting. They assess the health and development of children from birth up to the age of five.
Practice Nurse
Practice nurses work in general practitioners (GPs) surgeries and medical clinics, and may assist with immunisations, vaccinations and wound care, and provide general health advice.

Last updated 7 July 2019