Nursing employment terminology

The A – Z Dictionary of Nursing Employment Terms

January 18, 2023

When you’re new to nursing, it can be challenging to get a thorough understanding of the terms used when it comes to employment as a nurse. We hope our A -Z of everything related to nursing jobs helps clear up some of the common terms you’ll see and hear when looking for nursing jobs.


ADO: Employees working more than 38 hours per week are provided with a paid Additional Day Off (ADO) so that the hours that they work average out to 38 per week. In health, ADO can also mean Allocated Days Off (ADOs) Learn more about ADOs here.

Allowance: An allowance is an additional payment that applies when you work certain shifts. You may be entitled to allowances such as a meal allowance, a travel allowance, or a living away from home allowance (LAFHA),

Annual leave: Annual leave is a paid leave usually 4 weeks every year. You may be eligible for an annual leave after 12 months of continuous service with one employer.

Award: An award is a legal document that sets out the terms and conditions of employment for a specific industry or job. An award defines things like minimum wages, overtime, penalty rates and allowances.


Bank: Many Hospitals and healthcare facilities operate a Nurse Bank to backfill temporary vacancies from their permanent or permanent part-time nurses. Bank nurses often get to work across several facilities in a hospital or healthcare network, providing cover for other nurses on maternity leave or long-service leave, Working from the Nurse Bank can give nurses and midwives the opportunity to learn new skills in new areas of nursing outside of their speciality.

Block Booking: A block booking is when casual or nursing recruitment agency staff members (agency nurses) members are booked for more than one shift per roster (ie: one to two weeks at a time).


Casual: A casual nurse is a nurse who does not have regularly scheduled shifts. A casual nurse chooses when they work and can opt not to work a shift when it is offered, A casual nurse typically earns a higher rate of pay when compared to a nurse who works full-time because they do not have a firm commitment in advance from an employer about the days or hours they will work. Casual nurses do not get paid personal or annual leave. As a casual, employment can end without notice.

Contract: An employment contract is an agreement between you and your employee. It should be clearly written so you can understand your rights to certain pay and conditions.



Day shift:


Evening shift:


FTE: translates to full-time equivalent (FTE). It is a term used to measure and compare the time workload of employees or the overall staffing levels.It allows hospitals to standardize and compare different types of employees based on their working hours. The FTE calculation takes into account the total number of hours worked relative to the number of hours considered full-time in a specific facility. The exact definition of full-time hours may vary, but it is typically based on a standard workweek of 40 hours. To calculate FTE, you divide the total number of hours worked by an employee by the number of hours in a full-time workweek. For example, if a nurse works 30 hours per week, the FTE would be calculated as 30 hours divided by 40 hours (a full-time workweek) which equals 0.75 FTE. This means the nurse is working at 75% of a full-time workload.








Loading: Loading is an amount that is usually paid when your hospital or healthcare facility employer requires you to work outside of ordinary hours, such as on the weekend, late on a weeknight or early in the morning, or on a public holiday. Shift loading is also referred to as shift penalties or penalty rates. Whether loading is applied depends on the award, enterprise agreement or contract of employment that you are employed under.



Night shift:


Overtime: Overtime refers to work that is performed beyond your rostered hours. Your overtime rate of pay will depend on the hours you are expected to work each week or fortnight, as well as your award, registered agreement or employment contract. Not all. overtime may need to be paid if it is considered ‘reasonable’ as proscribed by your award, registered agreement or employment contract. When this is the case, you are usually paid a higher rate to off-set award entitlements.

On-call: If you are rostered as on-call, it means you are required to be available to work upon request at any time of day or night.


Part-time: A part-time nurse is a nurse who works fewer hours than a full-time nurse. Part-time can be defined by a portion of the full-time equivalent hours. For example, a Part-time nurse may work .5 FTE, which is half full-time hours, or ~19 hours (depending on what that facility defines as FTE hours).

Penalty Rates: See LOADING, above.

Pool: Many hospitals and healthcare facilities operate a Casual Pool to fill casual shifts on-demand from nurses who are engaged by the facility as a casual nurse.




RAN: Remote Area Nurse – a nurse who works in remote or isolated areas of Australia, where population density and remoteness preclude the provision of permanent doctors. A RAN may be employed in a remote indigenous community, a mine sites and remote townships. RANs are considered generalist specialists at an advanced practice level with an extended scope of practice outside of the direct supervision and ordering of a medical practitioner.


Remuneration: The term encompasses monetary (ie: your hourly rate and annual salary) and non-monetary compensation (ie: leave entitlements etc) for services

RIPERN: Rural & Isolated Practice Registered Nurse – a term use din Queensland. RIPERNs do the same work as RANs (see above)

Roster: A roster is your schedule to work – the dates and hours you are required to work. Most hospitals and healthcare organisations plan rosters 6-, 4- or 2-weeks in advance.

Roster vacancy: A shift in a roster which needs to be filled.


Salary: The amount you get paid for a fixed period, usually a month or year.

Shift Work: Shift work is work that takes place outside of ‘ordinary hours of work as defined in an award, registered agreement, or an employment contract.’ Hospitals and healthcare organisations rely on nurses as shift workers to keep facilities and services running 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Shifts in most hospitals and healthcare facilities are 12-hours, although some operate 10- or 8-hour shifts, or even shorter shifts, Your shifts may be fixed, meaning you are expected to work the same schedule every week) or you may have a rotating roster where you will work different shifts at different times of the day. The nature of your schedule may affect the type of penalties you receive.

Shift Allowance:

Shift Loading:

Staffing Units: A dedicated department that manages casual and agency nursing staff.

Superannuation: The money put aside during your working life for use when you retire. By law, your employer must contribute a percentage of your wages into a superannuation fund. ‘Super’ is an additional benefit on top of a wage or salary.


Temporary employees: Means a person who is engaged as an employee for a set period not exceeding 13 weeks, provided that fixed term contracts of employment, whether for periods greater or lesser than 13 weeks, must not be offered in preference to ongoing contracts.


Time off in lieu: Depending on your award, registered agreement or employment contract, your employer may allow you to take paid time off, called time off in lieu (TOIL) instead of paying your overtime.







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