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How to Become an Enrolled Nurse (EN)

ENs form part of Australia's nursing wokforce. You'll need a Diploma of Nursing to be one.

Nurse showing client use of remote control


Becoming an enrolled nurse in Australia requires you to complete an 18-to-24-month Diploma of Nursing. You then need to register with the NMBA and seek EN jobs. Getting your first job can be challenging if there is an oversupply of diploma graduates.

The role of an EN is to support the nursing team under the supervision of registered nurses (RNs). They are more involved in direct patient care, while degree-qualified RNs manage complex tasks like treatment planning and care coordination.

ENs only account for around 6 per cent of Australia's nursing workforce. Given that they also earn less than graduate RNs, this career pathway is not ideal for most nurse aspirants. However, exceptions exist and being an EN can be a pathway to becoming an RN.

Steps to Become an Enrolled Nurse

In a few steps, which include getting a nursing diploma, you can be working as an enrolled nurse.

1. Complete a Diploma of Nursing

The standard qualification for enrolled nurses in Australia is a Diploma of Nursing. This campus-based course usually spans 18 to 24 months full-time. It consists of 25 units focusing on essential skills such as health assessment, wound care, medication administration, infection control, and communication.

Related: Approved Programs of Study for Enrolled Nurse (Division 2)

2. Register with the NMBA

While completing your Diploma of Nursing or shortly after, you can apply for registration with the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia (NMBA). This step is essential to become a practicing Enrolled Nurse. You need to provide proof of your nursing education, undergo criminal history checks, and demonstrate English language proficiency.

3. Apply for nursing positions

Once registered, you can apply for enrolled nurse jobs. These are found across healthcare fields, and common specialisations include aged care, mental health, and perioperative nursing. You may need to do further study for some roles. For example, a Diploma of Anaesthetic Technology is required for anaesthetic nursing.

Difference Between an EN and an RN

Male and female nurses in a hospital ward

Enrolled nurse (EN) and registered nurse (RN) have similar roles, with the key distinction being that ENs work under RN supervision. RNs are degree-qualified, typically holding a Bachelor of Nursing.

Daily tasks greatly overlap between these types of nurses, as they often work together in a unit. Nursing care is provided by the staff available, regardless of its composition.

ENs tend to focus more on direct patient care and support. While they participate in a range of nursing activities, RNs often take the lead in activities such as treatment planning, task delegation, and care coordination. This division of responsibilities places ENs at the forefront of direct patient care.

According to the NMBA Fact Sheet on Nurse Scope of Practice and Capabilities, ENs gather patient data, contribute to care plans, and perform clinical tasks within their competence. They are responsible for the care delegated to them and communicate changes in patient conditions.

Table 1. EN vs RN Standards for Practice

EN Standard RN Equivalent
1. Functions in accordance with law, policies, and procedures 3. Maintains the capability for practice
2. Practices nursing ensuring rights, confidentiality, dignity, and respect 2. Engages in therapeutic and professional relationships
3. Accepts accountability and responsibility for own actions 3. Maintains the capability for practice
4. Interprets information for care planning 4. Comprehensively conducts assessments
5. Collaborates in developing care plans 5. Develops a plan for nursing practice
6. Provides skilled care promoting independence and decision-making 6. Provides safe, quality nursing practice
7. Communicates and uses documentation for care 7. Evaluates outcomes to inform practice
8. Provides care informed by research 6. Provides safe, quality nursing practice
9. Practices within safety and quality guidelines 6. Provides safe, quality nursing practice
10. Engages in professional development 3. Maintains the capability for practice

Sources: NMBA Enrolled Nurse (EN) Standards for Practice, NMBA Standards for Registered Nurse (RN) Practice

EN standards focus on functioning within legal and procedural frameworks, interpreting information for care planning, and collaborating in care delivery. In contrast, RN standards are fewer and more outcome focused. They emphasise critical thinking, comprehensive assessments, and independent development of nursing plans. The difference reflects RNs' broader scope and higher-level decision-making in patient care.

Source: What Is a Registered Nurse in Australia?

Is It Worth Being an Enrolled Nurse?

Medical staff monitoring patient vitals in hospital

Enrolled nursing is a commendable vocation. However, with some exceptions, the better option for working as a nurse is to complete a nursing degree and become a registered nurse.

Diploma of Nursing graduates often struggle to find work

Employment statistics illustrate the challenges and limitations of the nursing diploma pathway. It is projected that, by 2028, there will 368,441 RNs in Australia compared to just 25,096 enrolled and mothercraft nurses. ENs only constitute about 6% of the nursing workforce.

Diploma graduates often find limited job opportunities due to an oversupply, particularly in urban areas. Many graduates struggle to find work without 12 months of experience. Roles in Aged Care are relatively accessible but leaving this sector can be difficult.

Source: Jobs and Skills Australia - National Employment Projections

Even experienced ENs earn less than a new RN

The salary structure is a crucial consideration. The salary for an EN peaks after about 5 years. A graduate RN will start with a slightly higher salary than this, and receive annual increments for around the next 7 years. Furthermore, RNs have access to lucrative specialist and management positions.

Who should consider becoming an EN?

Exceptions to the general preference for a Bachelor of Nursing exist. International students facing high tuition fees are one group. Another are those not meeting academic standards for degree courses. On the upside, ENs can later transition to RNs through a Bachelor of Nursing (Enrolled Nurses) program, which is just 2 years of full-time study, thanks to credit for previous learning.

Salary Comparisons

Young woman holding Australian currency in medical office

Enrolled nurse salaries start reasonably high but there is a lack of progression. The table shows that while initial earnings are competitive, the potential for salary growth over time is limited, especially when compared to the earnings trajectory of registered nurses.

Table 2. EN vs RN Salaries

Region EN Year 1 EN Year 5 RN Year 1 RN Year 8 Pay premium*
NSW $63,131 $68,599 $70,050 $98,351 43%
Victoria $59,791 $65,891 $67,759 $95,706 45%
Queensland $69,160 $73,400 $80,342 $103,053 40%
Western Australia $66,760 $72,015 $75,957 $96,712 34%
South Australia $66,438 $72,729 $74,831 $102,103 40%
Tasmania $63,083 $69,835 $69,835 $89,272 28%
ACT $65,934 $70,443 $72,698 $97,112 38%
Northern Territory $67,263 $76,035 $76,035 $101,612 34%
Australia $65,195 $71,118 $73,438 $97,990 38%

* Pay premium is the percentage difference between a mature RN salary and a mature EN salary. EN salaries typically peak in Year 5 or 6. RN salaries typically peak in Year 8 or 9. Sources: Public sector nurse and midwife award salaries in each state and territory. Refer to our nursing resources page.

In Australia, an EN's starting salary is around $65,195, increasing to $71,118 after five years. In contrast, RNs start at $73,438 and see a significant rise to $97,990 by the eighth year. This demonstrates a 38% pay premium, which is the extra earnings of a mature RN compared to a mature EN.