How to Become a Nurse

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Did you know that nursing has one of the highest job placement rates of all types of degree in the UK, with 94% of students getting a job within six months of finishing their course? If you’re a natural nurturer with an interest in health, then why not consider starting a new career as a Nurse?

What do they do?

hospital corridor

Nurses work in a range of care settings from NHS hospitals, to care homes, to hospices. Their main role is to help assess patients who are injured or unwell, aid in their recovery and/or make them feel more comfortable. Being the largest group of staff in the NHS, they form the backbone of the NHS healthcare system, which wouldn’t be able to function the way it does without them.

There are four main areas that Nurses choose to specialise in:

  • Adults
  • Paediatrics
  • Mental Health
  • Learning and Disability

Nurses may also choose more niche specialisations within these four categories e.g. oncology, orthopaedics or theatre nursing.

A Nurse’s responsibilities will vary, depending on his or her speciality, but typical tasks include:

  • Listening to patient’s concerns.
  • Carrying out basic patient assessments.
  • Working with Doctors to decide on a suitable care plan.
  • Monitoring patients’ health progress.
  • Applying and changing wound dressings.
  • Administering medication.
  • Providing information and advice to patients’ and families about different health conditions, including any self-treatment they need to carry out at home.
  • Discharging patients from hospital and arranging follow up appointments where necessary.

What skills do I need?

The right person will:

  • Show kindness, compassion and tact.
  • Be able to build trusting relationships with patients.
  • Respect patient confidentiality.
  • Get enjoyment from helping others.
  • Be passionate about providing patients with the best care possible.
  • Be willing to acquire new knowledge and skills (mostly medical).
  • Have the ability to take complex medical concepts and explain them to patients in a way that they understand.
  • Be a good listener and communicator.
  • Be able to work with a range of other healthcare professionals to provide the best treatment possible.

What will I love about the job?

  • Making patients feel better both mentally and physically.
  • Following a patient’s journey; nursing them in sickness through to health and knowing that you helped make that happen.
  • Variety – you’ll be treating a range of different patients with a range of different problems.
  • Flexibility – you can choose which setting you’d rather work in e.g. whether you’d like to work in an NHS hospital or provide domiciliary care to people at home. Where you choose to work will also give you different options about whether you do full or part-time work.

What are the challenges?

  • You won’t always have all the answers to people’s medical queries, but this leaves you plenty of opportunity to continue learning on the job. Boredom in a nursing career is rare.
  • Patients who are in a vulnerable state may display challenging behaviour, but your Nurse training will teach you how to deal with difficult patients and it’s unlikely you’ll ever be placed in a situation where you can’t ask another member of staff for support if you need it.  
  • Dealing with patient deaths; this is never easy, but you will usually be offered support and counselling.

How much will I earn?

Nurses typically earn up to £28,000, but this varies depending on what sector or setting you decide to work in. Nurses in more senior positions can earn up to £50,000.

Are there opportunities to progress?

With experience, Nurses have the opportunity to move into Senior Staff Nurse or Ward Sister roles, which carry an increased amount of responsibility and the opportunity to lead a Nursing team.

How do I get started?

Volunteering

Before making the decision to become a Nurse, it’s worth contacting your local hospital or care home and asking if you can do some volunteer work. This will allow you to spend some time in a healthcare setting and speak to other Nurses to decide if the role would be suitable for you. Try to get some volunteer work in the area of nursing you’re thinking about going into e.g. paediatrics or mental health, so you can get a better idea about what you’re job as a Nurse will be like day-to-day.

Consider becoming a Nursing Associate via a free apprenticeship

NHS Nursing Apprenticeships are a cheaper alternative to nursing degrees as all costs are covered by the employer, meaning they’re completely free – there’s also no upper age limit. To get started with a Nursing Apprenticeship, you’ll need to get a job as Healthcare Assistant or a Healthcare Support Worker to gain some basic skills and experience before applying for a Nursing Associate Apprenticeship opportunity. As a Nursing Associate you will have more skills and responsibility then a Healthcare Assistant; but it should be made clear that your role will still be to support existing fully qualified nurses, not replace them.

Become a fully qualified Nurse via the degree route

Once you’ve decided you want to become a Nurse (and you’ve decided on a speciality), you’ll then need to apply for the relevant nursing degree. The course will consist of study time and practical placements in a care setting (usually a hospital) – so you’ll have plenty of opportunities to put your new skills into practice. The course usually takes about 3 years to complete and you will be supported by tutors and experienced Nurses throughout. Upon successful completion of your degree, you will be able to register with the Nursing and Midwifery Council and begin practicing as a fully qualified Nurse.

A note on cost

It’s important to remember that although training can be expensive, you’ll have the option to apply for grants, bursaries and/or student loans to help you with tuition fees and daily living. If you want to know more about fees and finances, it’s best to talk to the university you’re looking to apply to.

Did you find this page helpful? We’d love to hear from you! Email us at [email protected].

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