Public Vs. Private Hospitals – which sector is for you?

Public-vs-Private-Hiker standing at paths

Working as an agency nurse opens the doors to new experiences and opportunities, which is one of the reasons why so many nurses choose to take the leap. One of these new experiences may be working across both public and private sectors for the very first time.

Each sector has both advantages and disadvantages, and it solely comes down to both personal and nursing preferences as to which one you enjoy more. It can be quite confusing and sometimes frustrating if you don’t understand why significant differences exist across sectors.

To help out, we have included some general information on industry factors that can contribute to vastly different experiences.


Private hospitals have greater autonomy regarding business decisions, and this spans down the organisation and can be felt in nursing policies, procedures, resources available and patient care expectations.

Private facilities still have both state and federal government regulations to follow, but nowhere to the degree of public hospitals. This can be both a positive and a negative depending on the specific circumstances!

Control over admissions

Private Hospitals have greater control over admissions and cases seen. When working in a public hospital, you can often feel that you are flying by the seat of your pants as anything and everything can walk through that door. Some will love that aspect, and some won’t. It depends on your personality and what environment you enjoy working in.

Public hospitals are sometimes referred to as more fast paced and busier due to higher admission levels, stretched resources and a wider patient demographic bringing those additional complexities. However of course this is a generalisation and variances and challenges within the private industry do exist too!

Model of operation

Business & Funding models are extremely different, meaning that each sector has a different focus/approach to costs and operation. This can also mean differences in the focus and values of the management team. It’s important to note that of course both sectors focus on delivering the highest quality of patient care possible within their means.

On an individual patient level this can contribute to different length of stays for patients, difference in approach to care, schedules of theatres, workloads etc.

Patient allocations

Nurse/Patient allocations can be quite different across sectors. The expectation of patient allocations will vary from public to private so be sure to understand why these can be different. Patients across sectors can differ greatly in many different aspects such as acuity, care expectations and socioeconomic backgrounds.

Nursing duties

Specific nursing duties may vary across sectors quite significantly. For example, in public hospitals midwives may have greater scope/rates of midwife led deliveries (depending on the model of care of the unit of course). In private hospitals, there can be a higher rate of obstetrician led births meaning that your role may be more focused around delivering ante-natal, postnatal care or SCN duties etc.

Patients have quite different options in a private hospital so you can expect some differences in what you are required to do on an everyday basis across different specialities.

Whilst this is just a small list of differences across sectors, we do just want to reiterate that every hospital, regardless of sector, can be different! That is the reason why agency nurses are so flexible and adaptable – it isn’t an easy job by any means.

But the only way to find out which sector is better suited to you is to give it a go! So, ask your recruiter about opportunities that exist today!

Keep reading about what a career as an agency nurse can involve here

You may also like: