How to get into nursing

Nurses fill a diverse range of roles and responsibilities within the healthcare industry. While most will work with adults or children within a hospital setting, others will find themselves dealing with specific areas of the population – whether in universities, prisons, or with distinct geographical communities – while some will eventually work within clinical research, or for pharmaceutical or medical devices and technology companies.

Most roles will require nurses to work in a hospital ward or clinic among a team of peers under the guidance of a senior ward manager. This usually entails shift work.

Qualifications

To work as a nurse, you will need a nursing degree and must be registered with the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC). The NHS will cover your tuition fees and provide a maintenance grant.

Entry requirements vary according to the university which you attend, but you will generally be required to hold a minimum of five GCSEs at grade C or higher (this will usually need to include English, Maths, and one Science), as well as two A-levels. Candidates who gained their qualifications several years before applying may need to take a test to demonstrate their suitability.

To gain your degree, you will need to choose which of the four nursing specialisms you would like to study: adult, children, mental health, or learning disability. You will spend approximately half your time learning actively in a hospital or community healthcare setting.

Skills and Experience

Nursing is a rewarding job, but it can still be extremely demanding. You will need to be able to understand a diverse level of technical information and call on it in situations which are often time-critical.

You must be able to:

• Work within a team
• Demonstrate strong communication and people skills
• Offer advice and guidance
• Deal with emotionally challenging situations

Additionally, universities and healthcare authorities will need to check your criminal record before accepting you. A conviction will not bar you from entry but will need to be taken into account. For some positions, it is important to own your own vehicle and possess a clean driving licence.

Advantages

The greatest advantage of a career in nursing is that you’ll be able to pursue numerous areas of specialisation. This might simply involve moving into more senior roles, but nurses are constantly offered opportunities to advance their skills in a certain direction, or even undertake additional qualifications to prepare them for more intensive or specialised roles.

This means that you will be able to move towards certain areas of expertise, or even move into other fields entirely. The skills you learn as a nurse are highly sought-after by pharmaceutical companies, research bodies, and developers of medical technologies, so opportunities beyond direct healthcare are often available with substantial benefits, though they will generally require you to have attained higher level qualifications.