Leanne (Lulu) Zalapa and nurse David Waddilove.
Leanne (Lulu) Zalapa and nurse David Waddilove. Christian Gilles

Nursing options just the ticket

THE healthcare and social assistance sector is forecast to have the highest number of new jobs in the next five years.

Jobs department data shows 250,500 more workers will be needed between 2017 and 2022, almost double that of the second largest growing sector, professional services (126,400).

Health's largest occupation, nursing, is forecast to grow by 73,700 new jobs.

It offers more career development opportunities than many budding healthcare workers may think, as nurses can use their professional background to branch into roles as diverse as management, training, fundraising and policy.

For example, another 4200 nurse manager roles and 2300 nurse educator and researcher roles are predicted in the next five years.

Often, the next step for a registered nurse is to become a clinical nurse specialist with a postgraduate qualification focusing on a specific area, such as oncology or neuroscience.

From there, they can become a nurse practitioner, with the ability to prescribe medication and request diagnostic investigations.

This requires nurses to be endorsed by the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia, which look for clinical leadership experience in the area they intend to work as well as complementary research and education.

Hospital roles are not the only option, though.

Prince of Wales Hospital Foundation chief executive Leanne 'Lulu' Zalapa says there are "fantastic opportunities” for nurses both inside and outside hospital walls.

Zalapa started her own career as a nurse at age 17 and has since worked both in Australia and abroad in roles ranging from traditional nursing to writing health policies and education programs to teaching at TAFE.

She now heads up a foundation that has raised millions of dollars for research, education and hospital infrastructure, and is an associate professor at the University of Technology Sydney.

Zalapa has a Bachelor of Nursing and two postgraduate qualifications in public health and health administration, and is continually studying with her most recent training being a company director's course.

"Nurses are very capable people,” she says.

"They have empathy but also are very skilled and organised and don't dither on decisions.

"(As a nurse,) you don't have to work in hospitals, you can do anything.

"That ability to speak to patients at any level and work with doctors (means) you have great communication skills.”

Zalapa recommends nurses take all opportunities that come up, whether or not they seem within reach, and use their nursing skills to travel the world.

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