A Bicolana’s journey from hospitality to nursing in Australia

Some people get the opportunity to switch careers.  Some are planned and some are unexpected.  Here’s a summary of my interview with Charmaine Marto, originally from Legazpi city in the Bicol region who started in the hospitality industry and later became a Registered Nurse in Australia.

This article intends to inspire those who are from a different field and have plans to be part of the health care industry.

How did it start? How did you have an idea going out of the country? Was your goal going to New Zealand or Australia?

It started after graduation. I took up Tourism major in Hospitality Management. Beforehand I originally wanted Australia but was advised that New Zealand was better and had better opportunity.  I went to New Zealand to study Business Management. I studied for a year and after that I was on a working visa. I started working in a hotel and restaurant. I worked as a cook assistant. Most of my friends were nurses, I had an idea how PCA works and nurses as well. So, I got interested in working as PCA, so this was where it all started.

How long did you work as a PCA in New Zealand?

For three years. In 2018 I realised that I wanted more, I was thinking, should I study in New Zealand or move to another country, or should I go home to study medicine? I was advised by a friend that since I was already here in New Zealand what was the point of going back home? In June 2018, my aunt visited me from Melbourne. She told me to come along with her in Australia, I decided to go to Australia since this was my goal from the very beginning. I looked for an agent and started as a student visa and studied Nursing for three years at Deakin University.

How was the experience in studying in Deakin?

Very different compared to the Philippines. Class schedules were more flexible, students could choose their schedule depending on their availability.  Full-time in definition was 2-3 days of classes per week. In full-time class you had to study on your own as well, it is called Self-Directed Learning. We attended the classes; we did simulations and did cases as a group. We also went to simulation labs to do hurdles and clinical skills. 

When you finished in Deakin, was it easy to find a job after you got your RN registration?

For me, it was because before I graduated at Deakin University, I was already working in one of the largest public hospitals in Melbourne. I started working there as an assistant in nursing. It was a preparation for those studying in nursing, to get a feel in hospital settings. 

How’s your progression at work? Is it easy to get promoted? How do you get promoted?

I guess it is, but for you to be promoted you must study masters for nurses. Like, if you wanted to be a clinical nurse specialist, I think they are looking for someone who has taken masters or a post graduate degree.

What do you do outside work? 

I do travel, within Victoria or sometimes if we have one or two weeks off then we go somewhere else, interstate or regional. 

Working and studying in both countries, in New Zealand and Australia, what were the challenges you faced? And how did you resolve them?

The challenge was to land a job first. It was kind of challenging because they are looking for someone who has already an Australian experience. 

How long did it take you to find your first job in Australia when you moved from New Zealand?

It took months before I landed a job in a nursing home. 

How long did you work in a nursing home?  

I stayed the whole three years; I was working in a nursing home then in a public hospital. During COVID they required us to work full time, while my classes were done online. 

About the salary, since you have experienced working in Australia and New Zealand, what’s the difference in pay?

Totally different. Australia has higher pay than New Zealand. For nurses; $25/$26 per hour while here in Australia the rate of nurses is the same with the rates of PCA. Nurses in public hospital here earned AUD$34, that’s the minimum for fresh graduates. 

Is it the reason why aged care has higher salary than nurses because of the workload?

Aged care has a lot of tasks, in my experience in a nursing home we had a ratio of one is to thirty residents. We had a lot of responsibilities for the patients like medication then if something happened, like if the patient fell over. 

If aged care has “one is to thirty” ratio, what is the ratio in the hospitals?

In public hospitals it’s 1 is to 4, some other hospitals 1 to 3; Private hospitals is 1 is to 5, sometimes 1 to 6.

If given a chance, since you have the experience of both hospital and aged care, which one would you prefer?

I prefer hospital care because I learned more in terms of clinical skills, as a fresh graduate, it would help me lead to more nursing fields. Unlike aged care it focuses on one responsibility. However, it is still good to work with aged care because of the fulfillment and rewarding feeling.

In terms of promotion, is there a lot of PCAs who studied nursing and automatically promoted when they finished the course? Would the employer give you the role as a nurse right away? 

Yes, it usually happens if the PCA finishes his/her degree (Bachelor or Diploma). They can apply with the same employer if they want to continue working as a nurse. 

What is your advice to people that want to migrate to Australia?  

Number 1 tip is to do research; don’t easily believe what other people say. If you have questions, consult a Registered Migrant Agent, they are the ones who can help you. Lastly, be financially ready. 

The full version of this interview is accessible at:


If you are thinking of changing careers and would like to understand how this change will affect your Australian visa options, it is suggested that you seek advice from a Registered Migration Agent or an Immigration Lawyer. 

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