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Getting qualified in human behaviour

This was originally published in Australian Nursing and Midwifery Journal.

By Sue Kokonis, Swinburne Online Academic Director and registered psychologist.

On a daily basis, nurses deal with people from all walks of life and in all states of mental wellness. As the first point of contact for patients, carers, family and friends who are responding to a stressful situation, nurses often take on an important role in managing a range of behaviours.  

Understanding how to analyse behaviour, relationships and motivations of people is a skill that many nurses have innately, but in many cases this is not formally recognised.

The good news is that there are many options available to those wanting to upskill in this area. Short courses, attending conferences and reading up on the variety of texts that cover this topic are just a few. But if you want to further your knowledge in human behaviour, a degree in psychology could be the best option.

While taking on a university degree can appear daunting, particularly for those already balancing work and life commitments, the tertiary system has evolved to be more flexible for working adults, making upskilling or formalising experience attainable.

Understanding of developmental, cognitive and social psychology can be applied at both an organisational and personal level. Paired with nursing experience, a psychology degree can open professional and career opportunities across the health profession and into other industries.

For most people it’s not an option to quit a job and return to full time study, which is why many universities are developing degrees that are tailored to the “working professional”.

This includes courses offered on weekends and evenings to allow for work commitments, courses offered in week long blocks allowing students to take leave to complete a subject, and courses offered fully online so that students can study in their own time.

The popularity of the online learning model is the flexibility that it offers. Studying online means you can continue to work and study concurrently – no matter what your roster might look like. It also means that what you learn in the online classroom one day can be applied straight into your work environment the next.

The nursing profession is one that works closely with different people, after experience in the field it’s natural to look towards specialisation or perhaps changing careers. If you have an interest in human behaviour and want to take the next step in your career, a psychology degree could be the career advantage that you need to get you there.

Swinburne Online offers a Bachelor of Social Science (Psychology) degree fully online.