How to become a nurse
Nurses offer care, treatments, advice and emotional support to patients of all ages before, during and after they are unwell. Working as a nurse, you will engage with a diverse patient base and will have to treat a number of different illnesses and injuries. Some nurses specialise in specific areas of medicine or with specific patient bases, whereas others work in a more broad way by nursing in emergency departments or at a GP surgery, for example.
£22,000 to £48,000
37 to 42 hours
A guide to the nursing profession
The duties of a nurse are varied and rewarding but they are very physically demanding. You will need to maintain a good level of health and fitness to ensure that you can work safely and successfully as a nurse and it is vital to follow all health and safety procedures to prevent injuries to yourself. This role also comes with a great deal of responsibility and this can be emotionally challenging for some nurses. A career in this field will require a lot of investment from you but guarantees a multitude of rewards.
What qualifications will I need to become a nurse?
To begin a nursing career, you will need a degree in nursing. To begin a nursing degree, universities will require you to meet certain academic requirements. Each university will set its own requirements but usually, for a nursing degree, this will include at least 5 GCSEs grades A* – C and 3 A-Levels or the completion of an Access Course.
When you decide to become a nurse, you will be asked to choose between four areas of specialisms, which include:
- Adult nursing
- Nursing for children
- Mental health nursing
- Or nursing for people with learning difficulties.
By choosing one of these specialisms, you will be better placed to meet the needs of your patients once you are fully qualified. Your training will involve academic study in a university setting and practical training in a local hospital or in a placement within your community.
If a person who is currently working as a healthcare assistant decides that they would like to become a nurse, their employer may offer financial and training support towards ensuring that they meet the requirements for entry on to the degree course. It may also be possible for existing healthcare workers to begin an apprenticeship scheme which would allow them to work and train at the same time.
It will also be necessary for you to have an enhanced criminal records check. If you have a criminal record, you will not automatically be barred from entering a career in nursing, but it is necessary to review the past criminal activity of each applicant to assess whether there is a safety risk posed to patients.
A medical examination is also likely to be required by the employer. This is simply to assess whether the nurse will need any additional support or advice to ensure their safety and health whilst in the workplace.
Essential Skills for Being a Nurse
Being a nurse is a highly demanding job, both physically and mentally. In order to ensure the safety of yourself and your patients, you will need to possess a number of essential skills. This includes:
- Excellent communication skills and the ability to communicate with people from all areas of the community.
- The ability to understand specific areas of medicine and to identify symptoms and appropriate treatments.
- The skill to explain a diagnosis and treatment plan in a coherent and calm way.
- Being able to alleviate stresses and fears within a patient or their family.
- To liaise with other medical professionals
- To ensure that patients are treated in a fair, dignified and respectful manner.
- To hide any stresses or reactions to illnesses or injuries from the patient and treat them equally.
- Excellent organisational and administrative skills – particularly the ability to maintain medical records.
Day to Day Work of a Nurse
Each nurse’s day can differ greatly from the next and is sure to be as varied as it is demanding. Nurses might work in an NHS hospital or surgery, a private medical facility, a school, a prison, a university, a community clinic, a sports facility or a host of other settings. The specialisms that you choose will often determine where you will work.
A nurse’s day will include physical and written work as it is essential that medical records are constantly updated. This means that a nurse will provide treatment and care and then find an appropriate setting to write in the patient’s notes.
A nurse’s daily activities might include:
- Giving treatment, medical advice and emotional support to a patient and their family.
- Offering after-care advice to patients who have received surgery.
- Providing reports and observations to doctors and other medical professionals.
- Maintaining the highest standards of hygiene within the workplace.
- Working in a community setting to teach groups about specific health matters.
- Administering medication to patients.
- Visiting patients in their home to review their wellbeing, deliver treatment or complete reports.
- Cleaning and dressing wounds.
- Using a variety of pieces of medical equipment.
- Maintaining thorough medical records for all patients.
How much do nurses get paid?
A newly qualified nurse can expect to earn a salary of between £22,000 and £28,500. With experience and some years of experience in the profession, this will increase to between £28,500 and £41,000.
Nursing consultants receive a salary of around £48,000.
Career Progression for a Nurse
Nurses can progress their career through experience. This could lead to roles including a ward manager, nursing sister or a team leader.
Alternatively, once you have received experience working as a nurse, you may opt to specialise in a specific area of medicine such as midwifery or become a practice nurse (at a doctor’s surgery) or a health visitor.
Those who want to further their academic qualifications may choose to take a Master’s degree which could lead to career progression into becoming a nurse consultant, advanced nurse practitioner or working as a clinical nurse specialist.
Working Hours for a Nurse
Most nurses are contracted to work 37 hours each week. The hours that a nurse works will usually be on a rota system and this means that night shifts, weekend and bank holiday work is usually required.
Nursing is a very demanding job and most nurses find that there is often the need for them to work additional hours each week. This is not a legal demand, but many nurses become so invested in a patient that they will work overtime to support the needs of the hospital and team.