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Nursing offers exciting and rewarding career prospects for those who want to make a difference to people’s lives.  The number of options is huge, with the possibility to work in a range of settings, including hospitals, people’s homes, prisons, on cruise ships, in GP practices, schools, workplaces and specialist clinics.  For those with a yearning to travel nursing is a universal profession with opportunities to work in Western and developing countries.  Many nurses also join the armed forces.  Twenty five per cent work outside the NHS, in private hospitals and clinics, the voluntary sector and industry.  Some choose self employment, working as independent nurse consultants and educators or in related fields such as counselling or complementary therapies.


The nursing role embraces assessment of patient needs, planning care, performing clinical procedures, evaluating care and writing reports.  Nurses also teach students, health care assistants and other health colleagues.  Nurses don’t just care for sick people, they also prevent ill health by teaching health promotion, smoking cessation and healthy eating.  They also advise on managing chronic conditions such as asthma, diabetes and heart disease.

Nurse education requires students to specialise in one of four branches, to work with either adults, children, those with learning disabilities or mental health conditions.  Midwives undertake separate specialist training.


Adult Nurses

Adult Nurses work in areas such as accident and emergency, critical care, theatres and cancer nursing in hospitals.  In the community extra training to become a health visitor, school nurse or district nurse is possible.  These are just some of the huge variety of roles in adult nursing.


Children’s nurses

Children’s Nurses work with children from birth up to the age of 18, as well as parents and relatives, teaching them about the child’s condition and how to care for them.  Young people react to illness very differently to adults.  It is possible to specialise in areas such as cancer care, burns, theatres, accident and emergency or to work in the community, visiting children in their home.


Mental Health Nurses

Mental health nurses help people with mental illness to lead more fulfilling lives.  The symptoms of mental ill health may include depression, anger, fear and anxiety.  Using the skills of assessment, counselling, support and advice, mental health nurses help people come to terms with their problems. They co ordinate care and administer appropriate medications and treatment programmes.


Learning Disability Nurses

Learning Disability nurses  help children and adults with developmental problems and learning difficulties to live more independently.  Most people with learning disabilities live in houses or flats with extra support from nurses and social care staff.  Some nurses work with individuals who need more intensive support in hospitals or specialist secure units for offenders with learning disabilities.  Learning disability nurses give physical, as well as emotional, care and must have an in depth knowledge of conditions such as Down Syndrome and Autism, how these affect people and treatment options.


Entry Qualifications

There are no national entry requirements for pre-registration nursing courses, because each university sets its own criteria.
Typical Diploma entry requirements are:
5 GCSEs (or equivalent) at grade C or above, including English and a science subject.


Typical Degree entry requirements are:
5 GCSEs (or equivalent) as above, plus at least 2 A-levels (or equivalent).


Career progression after initial qualification at diploma or degree level is dependent on a mix of further study and work experience.  Those who qualify with a diploma should undertake degree level study at some stage if they wish to progress.  Specialist practitioner degrees are offered to those who specialise in a particular field, covering areas such as school, GP practice, occupational health, district, family planning nursing and health visiting .Post-graduate diplomas and masters level programmes are available for graduates.

For eligible students, support normally includes full payment of tuition fees. NHS student bursaries may also be available to help with living expenses.


Salary Expectations

As a registered nurse starting your career, whether you took a diploma or degree in nursing, you would start on over £21,000 per year. You can earn even more through overtime and other payments. The highest paid positions, like a director of nursing, can earn over £95,000 per year.


Further information

NHS Careers –

Health Professions Wales –

NHS Education for Scotland –

Northern Ireland Practice and Education Council for Nursing and Midwifery –


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