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Nursing Offers a Wealth of Opportunities


Nursing is a highly-skilled discipline that can offer a range of excitingand rewarding opportunities in a diverse range of settings. As a nurse it is possible to work in hospitals, GP surgeries, schools, people’s homes and specialist clinics to name but a few. For those with a penchant for travel, nurses also work on cruise ships and in the armed forces. The skills that nurses have are universally sought and there are many opportunities to work in other countries as well. Outside the health service nurses work in private hospitals and clinics, the voluntary sector and industry.

Nursing is more diverse than ever before and it is possible to specialise in a variety of fields. The nursing role embraces assessment of patient needs, planning care, performing clinical procedures, evaluating care and writing reports. Nurses undertake research, manage people and develop services. They work closely with other care professionals such as doctors, physiotherapists, dieticians, speech therapists and social workers. Nurses are also heavily involved in health promotion through such things as smoking cessation and healthy eating. They also advise on managing chronic conditions such as asthma, diabetes and heart disease and are expanding their roles to include diagnosis, prescribing medications and undertaking procedures such as minor surgery.

It is possible to take either a diploma or degree course to qualify as a nurse. Education in Northern Ireland is provided by Queen’s University, Belfast and the University of Ulster, with placements in local hospital and community settings. More recently it has also been possible to study through the Open University. The course is 50% theory and 50% practical. The first year is a Common Foundation Programme, which is an introduction to the basic principles of nursing. Students then go on to specialise in one of four branches: adult; children's; mental health or learning disability nursing (only Queen’s University offer all four branches). Full-time diploma courses last three years. Degree courses last three or four years. During the course students receive a non-means tested, tax-free bursary.

Adult Nursing
The number of opportunities for those qualifying in the adult branch of nursing is huge. It is possible to work in hospitals or the community - in peoples homes, attached to a health centre or in nursing homes. This involves caring for, supporting and educating people of all ages. Once qualified, many nurses take extra courses to specialise in areas such as cancer care, women's health, accident and emergency, critical care, practice nursing, health visiting or school nursing.

Children's Nursing
Those qualified in the children's branch of nursing work with 0 to 18 year olds in a variety of settings, from specialist baby-care units to adolescent services. Children react to illness in a very different way to adults, which is why they need to be cared for and supported by specially trained nurses who understand their particular needs. Children's nurses also support, advise and educate parents and other close relatives. Once qualified, it is possible to specialise in hospital and community settings in areas such as burns and plastics, intensive care, child protection and cancer care.

Learning Disability Nursing
About two to three percent of the population has a learning disability. Nurses who qualify in this branch of nursing help those with learning disabilities to live independent and fulfilling lives. This may involve working with people in supported accommodation - typically three to four people with learning disabilities live together in flats or houses, with 24-hour support. Some nurses work with individuals who require more intensive support - for instance, in hospitals or in specialist secure units for offenders with learning disabilities. Others specialise in areas such as epilepsy management or working with people with sensory impairment.

Mental health Nursing
Mental health nurses work with GPs, psychiatrists, social workers and others to co-ordinate the care of people suffering from mental illness. The vast majority of people with mental health problems live in the community. Nurses plan and deliver care for people living in their own home, in small residential units or specialist hospital services. Some are based in health centres. It is possible to develop expertise in areas such as rehabilitation, child and adolescent mental health, substance misuse and working with offenders.

Nursing is a rewarding, challenging and motivating career option which covers a range of activities that few other professions can match. Through choosing a career in nursing you can make a real difference to the quality of people’s lives.

Further information:

RCN Northern Ireland
Telephone: 028 90384600

Queen’s University, Belfast

University of Ulster

Open University

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