Nurses plan and provide medical and nursing care to patients in hospital, at home or in other settings.
Nurses work as part of a team of professional and medical staff that includes doctors, social workers and therapists. Much of nurses’ time is spent with patients, monitoring them, planning and delivering care, and advising them on their health. Shift work is common in nursing, as is a busy workload.
Typical duties include:
- Assessing patients and gaining their trust.
- Planning and delivering patients’ care.
- Monitoring patients’ progress.
- Taking samples, pulses, temperatures and blood pressures.
- Monitoring and administering medication.
- Writing records.
- Supervising junior staff.
- Organising workloads.
- Providing emotional support to patients and relatives.
- Tutoring student nurses.
- Advising patients and relatives on health-related issues.
Typical employers of nurses:
- Hospitals (NHS and private).
- NHS trusts
- Residential homes.
- Nursing agencies.
- Health centres.
- GP practices.
Key skills for nurses:
- Excellent people skills, including the ability to listen.
- The ability to use initiative and solve problems.
- Attention to detail.
- The ability to deal with emotionally charged and pressured situations.
- Excellent verbal and written communication skills.
- IT skills and the ability to keep patient record up to date.
The main route into qualifying as a nurse is to take a nursing degree in one of the four nursing specialisms: adult nursing, children's nursing, learning disability nursing or mental health nursing. Some degree courses cover two of these fields, and are known as 'dual field' degrees. Nursing degree courses provide a mix of formal teaching and practical experience gained via placements.
If you don’t have a degree but are working in a healthcare-related role (or would like to), you could take a nursing degree apprenticeship. These are similar to nursing degrees in that they involve a mix of academic study and placements, but they’re employer-led rather than being led by universities. Alongside working in a paid healthcare role, you study part time (and your employer will release you from work to enable you to do this) and complete a series of placements.
All nurses working in the UK must be registered with the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) and revalidate their registration every three years. To do this, you need to complete at least 35 hours of continuing professional development and 450 hours’ registered practice over three years.