How to become a nurse

As a Nurse, your main responsibility will be to provide direct patient care, ensuring that all patient needs are met, from administering medication, developing patient care plans, and liaising with doctors and physicians.

While most Nurses work in hospitals, there are a number of different options, such as working in a school or the patient’s home, with children, adults, elderly patients and the mentally ill. Whether you are joining at entry level or later in your career path, you won’t regret it. After all, being a nurse is more than just a job; it is a way of life!

Average salary

£17,000 – £30,000

Required qualifications

To work as a registered nurse, you will have to study at university and complete a course approved by the NMC (Nursing and Midwifery Council), and you’ll have to complete a pre-registration form which will determine your eligibility to study to become a nurse.

To study a Nursing course at university, you’ll need:

  • 5 GCSEs, (grades A-C) including Maths, English and a Science
  • At least 2, but preferably 3, A-Levels (or the equivalent BTEC Diploma); some universities will require study in Biology

However, if you have previously qualified to work within the NHS, or hold a degree or qualification in any of the following, then you may qualify for accreditation for prior learning (APL).

  • Biomedical Sciences
  • Human Biology
  • Life and Medical Sciences
  • Physiology
  • Psychology
  • Social Work

If you do qualify for APL, you may be placed onto an accelerated programme, where your course will be shorter. You may also be recognised for APL if you hold an NVQ Level 3 associate practitioner/assistant qualification.

Key skills

Nurses are ultimately responsible for the care they provide to their patients; they are leaders in their field, carers and clinicians. With so many roles, there are a number of key skills you must have to go into nursing. Some of these key skills include:

  • Strong numeracy and literacy skills
  • Excellent communication skills, both written and verbal
  • Ability to work in emotionally charged situations
  • Excellent observation and monitoring skills
  • Ability to respond quickly to emergencies
  • Ability to advocate for patients
  • Positive, calming bedside manner
  • Excellent stamina both mental and physical, particularly to work longer shifts
  • Strong understanding of nursing and health education

Useful work experience

Nursing can be a demanding career, so previous experience working in a similar environment is always a bonus when entering the field, as it shows your understanding of and commitment to the profession. Previous experience as a healthcare assistant, or time spent in a medical or health support role will often be sought.

Similarly, voluntary work with a medical organisation such as St. John’s Ambulance Care, or work within the community will always be beneficial.

A typical working day…

The role of a Nurse will vary greatly, depending on the environment you choose to work in. However, whether you choose to work with adults or children, in a school or hospital, there will be similar responsibilities within the role, such as:

  • Observing and monitoring the patient’s process
  • Deciding possible care routes and devising patient care plans
  • Consulting with physicians and other healthcare professionals
  • Preparing patients for operations and treating wounds
  • Monitoring pulse, blood pressure and temperature on a regular basis
  • Checking and administering medications and treatments
  • Maintaining patient charts and medical histories
  • Carrying out routine investigations
  • Setting up drips and blood transfusions
  • Educating patients and communities about good health
  • Liaising closely with GPs, social workers, schools, residential homes or hospitals, depending on your specialism of nursing
  • Mentoring students or junior nurses
  • Responding quickly to emergencies as they arise

Where could you be in five years’ time?

Working as a Nurse leaves scope for real career progression; as you enter the field you’ll be provided with frequent training and development opportunities, and you’ll often shadow and be mentored by a more senior nurse.

Generally, you’ll work your way up to become a Senior Staff Nurse. After this, you can become a Junior Sister, followed by Ward Sister. If you wish to progress into a more managerial role, you can also progress to become a Nurse Practitioner or a Nurse Consultant.

Best part of the job…

The role is fast-paced and exciting, and you’ll really be making a difference to the patients you treat. There are a variety of working environments available, meaning you can try out different areas and develop your skill set.

Your patients may forget your name, but they’ll never forget the way you made them feel or what you did for them to care them back to health. The role of a nurse is really very rewarding, whether you end up working with children, the elderly, A&E or people with a disability and there isn’t a routine, your day is as varied as the next, which makes for an exciting career ahead of you!

What to be prepared for…

You may find yourself working long hours, with some overtime. Furthermore, you’ll spend a lot of time on your feet, and you may find yourself multi-tasking and working in emotional and potentially stressful situations. Being a nurse is challenging and you’ll come across lots of situations, but, what you put into this job, you really will get out.

Key qualities

To succeed as a Nurse, you’ll have to be sympathetic and compassionate, whilst remaining calm and professional when working with distressed and unwell patients. You’ll be confident when talking to your patients and their families, and you’ll be able to advocate on their behalf at all times. If you want to care for people and really make a difference then Nursing could be the career for you.

Whatever the situation, the chances are that there is a Nursing job and career route out there to meet your key skills, interests and requirements.