How to get into nursing
If you are looking for a career that involves helping people and gives opportunities to constantly learn, then nursing is definitely well worth considering. There will always be demand for compassionate, caring people who want to make a difference by working as a nurse – and always a wide range of environments in which they can work.
How do I become a nurse?
You will need to gain a degree in nursing. Entry requirements vary, but generally you’ll need five GCSEs (including Maths, English and Science) and at least two A-levels, one of which will need to be in a science or health-related subject. Some universities also accept equivalent qualifications at level three.
Most nursing degree programmes last three years and all involve ‘classroom’ learning and practical placements. The nature of those placements will depend on which of the four nursing specialisms you’ve chosen to focus on – adult, children, mental health, or learning disability. Becoming a midwife involves a different degree path, but may well involve some of the same classes.
If you already hold a degree, then you may be able to apply for a two-year programme.
How can get I funding for my degree?
In England, nursing students now have access to the same loans systems as those taking other subjects. There is however a learning support fund (LSF), provided by the Department of Health and Social Care and administered by the NHS Business Services Authority.
In Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland there is a bursary for nursing students.
Nursing degree apprenticeships are available across the UK. These are specifically designed to help people already working in healthcare to become nurses. Nursing apprentices don’t pay tuition or training fees – the costs are covered by their employer.
What happens at the end of my degree?
Once you’ve graduated, you need to apply to join the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) register – this is the list of people who can practise as a nurse in the UK. That’s the case whether you choose to work in the private sector or within the NHS.
What job opportunities are out there for me?
Nursing is a career with all manner of opportunities. You could work in the community, so out of hospital and sometimes in people’s homes. You might choose to work within a hospital. Or perhaps you’ll support people living within a care home.
What happens when I start work?
The transition from life as a student to that of a newly-qualified nurse can be a tricky one, but good employers will find ways to make it easier. One is preceptorship – a period in which you are supported, in a formal way, by an experienced nurse.
When looking for a job it’s worth exploring whether there will be a preceptorship period.
What sort of career progression is available to me?
Another advantage of nursing is that are a multitude of ways in which to progress: from staff nurse to senior staff nurse to sister to clinical nurse specialist, for instance. You could also consider moving into education or into research. Certainly there is no shortage of possible paths to pursue – another reason many find nursing such a satisfying profession.