Nurses and midwives in Australia

Nurses and midwives make up the largest sector in the health workforce, with around 450,000 registered practitioners. Find out more about regulation, registration and workforce growth in Australia.

The workforce numbers

There are around 450,000 registered nurses and midwives in Australia, making it the largest clinical workforce in the country. In 2020, there were around:

  • 337,000 registered nurses
  • 72,000 enrolled nurses
  • 6,500 midwives with midwife-only registration
  • 28,800 midwives with dual registration.

See details about nursing and midwifery workforce numbers in Australia in our national health workforce dataset fact sheets.

Workforce growth

The nursing and midwifery workforce continues to grow at a healthy rate.

Nurses and midwives by division, 2016 and 2019

Division

2016

2019

Annual growth (%)

Registered nurse

236,931

265,335

3.8

Enrolled nurse only

51,454

53,219

1.1

Dual registration*

23,377

21,656

-2.5

Midwife only

3,402

4,731

11.6

Total

315,164

344,941

3.1

  • * Changes in the recency of practice requirements, which came into effect on 1 June 2016, have led to a decrease in the number of nurses and midwives holding dual registration and the number of employed dual registrants.
  • Source: Factsheet, Nursing and Midwifery 2019, Nursing and Midwifery pdf.

We expect demand for nurses and midwives to grow further over the next decade, as Australia’s population changes.

Regulation and registration

The Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (Ahpra) regulates the nursing and midwifery professions through the National Registration and Accreditation Scheme.

Ahpra works with national boards for specific professions. The Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia (NMBA) regulates nursing registrations.

Ahpra maintains a publicly accessible and searchable national register of nurses and midwives registered with the NMBA. The register also identifies:

  • any conditions or restrictions on professional practice
  • nurses who are endorsed as a nurse practitioner.

To work as a nurse or midwife in Australia, you need to have completed an approved course and be registered with the NMBA. Becoming registered shows that you meet the professional standards for nurses or midwives.

See the NMBA’s site for details on the registration and endorsement process.

Regulatory bodies

The Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (Ahpra)

Aphra works with 15 national boards, including the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia, to help protect the public by regulating Australia's registered health practitioners.

The Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia (NMBA)

The NMBA operates as an independent authority and its functions include:

  • overseeing practitioner registration
  • developing professional standards, codes and guidelines
  • handling notifications and complaints in relation to the profession
  • assessing overseas-trained practitioners who wish to practice in Australia
  • approving accreditation standards and courses of study.

Australian Nursing and Midwifery Accreditation Council (ANMAC)

The NMBA appointed ANMAC to be the independent accrediting authority for nursing and midwifery education.

ANMAC is also the skills assessing authority for nurses and midwives seeking to migrate under the Australian Government’s General Skilled Migration program.

Professional organisations

There are over 50 professional associations for nurses and midwives in Australia, catering to different specialities as well as the profession as a whole.

Medicare access for nurses and midwives

Since 1 November 2010, eligible nurse practitioners and midwives have been able to:

  • provide services for certain items under the Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS)
  • write prescriptions for certain medicines under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS).

This improves Australians’ access to primary health care services and promotes multidisciplinary team-based approaches to health care.

Services Australia has Medicare information for nurses and midwives, including eligibility requirements and guides on bulk billing. Its Health Professional Education Resources Gateway also has guides on MBS items for nurse practitioners and midwives.

PBS Online has information for PBS prescribers, including nurse practitioners and midwives.

MBS Online contains a listing of the Medicare services subsidised by the Australian Government and available to nurse practitioners and endorsed midwives.

In your state or territory

State and territory governments play a vital role in providing nursing and midwifery services in their jurisdictions. Read about nursing and midwifery in your state or territory:

Last updated: 
12 May 2021

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