Follow a study pathway to become a Registered Nurse

Follow a study pathway to become a Registered Nurse

If you’ve always dreamed of becoming a Registered Nurse, there may be a study pathway option available to you that you haven’t previously considered. Tune in.


Are you an Enrolled Nurse (EN) who is considering upskilling to become a Registered Nurse (RN)?

Maybe you did a Diploma of Nursing years ago and your kids are now at school or life has changed, so you’re ready to take that next step to become an RN?

Whatever your situation, there are study pathway options to help you achieve your goals.

In this article, Chisholm’s Nursing Senior Educator Taryn Kellerman and Bachelor of Nursing Course co-ordinator Philippa Ashworth explain how nursing pathways work and some of the benefits.

The pair, along with others from the Chisholm Higher Education College nursing team, recently had their paper published in Nurse Education Today, Transition and pathway programs from second to first level nursing: A scoping review.

The difference between an EN and an RN

Both ENs and RNs care for people, but there are differences in their qualification levels and responsibilities.

ENs have a diploma-level qualification, while registered nurses have a bachelor’s degree. 

An EN’s duties can include tasks such as recording patients’ vital signs, providing wound care and assisting with bathing, toileting and dressing. EN’s are also able to administer medication, but their scope of practice only allows this under the direct/indirect supervision of an RN.

Registered nurses, on the other hand, may undertake tasks like diagnostic tests, administering medications, managing blood transfusions, and working in some speciality areas.

You can find out more about the difference between an EN and an RN in our recent blog.

What is a study pathway?

A study pathway is a staged learning process, often involving a combination of courses, that allows you to reach a desired end goal.

So, what does that look like? Well, it may involve doing a certificate IV, diploma or advanced diploma and then following a pathway straight into a bachelor’s degree.

Often you can complete multiple qualifications in the same time it would take to do one degree.

The benefits of pathways

  • Flexibility – multiple ways to structure your study.  
  • No need for an ATAR. Just follow a pathway.  
  • Work in your chosen industry between qualifications (for example, if you do a diploma first and then start working while studying for your bachelor’s).
  • The pathway model is not just for school leavers – anyone can follow a study pathway. 

What is a nursing pathway?

When it comes to nursing, there are all sorts of study pathways that can allow you to achieve your goals.

Say you’re a high school student looking to jumpstart your nursing career. You may decide to do a VCE Vocational Major (VCE-VM) with a focus on nursing.

With this two-year program, you can study a vocational and applied learning program (like nursing) within the VCE and get started on a nursing pathway.

Here’s another example. You’re an EN whose dream has always been to become an RN, but you’ve felt hindered because you don’t have an ATAR.

Chisholm offers a pathway option whereby you can upgrade your current EN qualification with a two-year Bachelor of Nursing (Enrolled Nurse) degree (offered in partnership between La Trobe University and Chisholm).

What the research shows

Taryn and Philippa’s research team looked at why ENs were deciding to pathway from diploma to degree and how to support them and set them up for success.

Taryn says the key barriers identified were life and family commitments, trying to juggle working as an EN and studying, and expectations of university and placement.

“Coming through the diploma too, for a lot of them it’s the first time they’ve experienced the academic writing style that universities are expecting,” says Taryn.

“With our students coming straight into the second year, they’ve missed that foundational year of academic writing and referencing, so we put a lot of support and effort in to help get them up to that academic standard of writing for university.”

The researchers identified certain advantages of studying at TAFE rather than at a university campus:

  • Smaller classes and more one-on-one support and facilitation in everything from academic writing to placement help.
  • More support from the educators.
  • More resources available through the Chisholm libraries, as well as La Trobe University.

“I think the big plus too is that these students don’t need an ATAR,” says Philippa.

“You have mums or dads who’ve put their lives on hold for six or seven years or people wanting a career change.

“They have no capacity to go back and revisit high school, nor do they have any desire because they’re working.

“They can actually come in through the back door and still come out with a degree at the end of it.”

Why is it important to upskill?

Philippa says upskilling is important for personal growth, increasing your scope of practice and helping to replenish the workforce with RNs.

“It’s been known for the last 30 years that there was going to be a significant loss of qualified RNs out of the system because so many nurses have rolled into that retirement age bracket,” she says.

“If we can help them improve their skillset, they can then go into the workforce and progress further in their career.

“That then opens up the opportunity for postgraduate studies, which they can’t do as an EN.

“Once you have the bachelor under your belt, you can move within the Higher Education College at Chisholm and do a Graduate Certificate in Family Violence or Psychology, for example.”

What are the career benefits and prospects?

There’s high demand for RNs, says Philippa, particularly in aged care, so the career prospects are promising.

According to the government’s Labour Market Insights, the number of RNs was expected to grow strongly between November 2021 to November 2026, reaching 331,200 by 2026. That’s a projected change of 13.9%, or 40,400 jobs.

Another benefit of studying to become an RN is that it opens many different doors.

“They can become nurse unit managers, researchers; they can undertake postgraduate studies in a chosen field, they can become nurse practitioners, so the scope of advancement through further study as an RN is enormous,” says Philippa.

“Some speciality areas will only employ RNs as well,” adds Taryn. “It opens up your opportunities a lot more for your interested areas of work.”

Both Philippa and Taryn are still practicing RNs and say overall, it’s a rewarding, worthy career.

“It put my three children through private school on night duty, so there’s money to be made,” says Philippa.

“You have a lot of fun and meet some great colleagues and they’re friends for life.”

How to get started?

Chisholm’s Diploma of Nursing is a Free TAFE Priority Course. Check your eligibility.

To do the Bachelor of Nursing (Enrolled Nurse) through Chisholm and La Trobe University, you need to be registered as an EN with AHPRA (Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Authority).

Like to know more?

To find out more about Chisholm’s nursing courses, get in touch today.

There are also a range of Allied Health courses available through Chisholm for those who are looking at other rewarding career where they can care for people.