Education and Training

How to become a nurse

What is a Nurse?

Nurses provide care for people with a range of health issues, working directly with patients and focusing on their needs and wellbeing. They work across the healthcare system but will often specialise in areas such as adult nursing, children’s nursing or mental health.

How do I become a Nurse?

To become a nurse you’ll usually need a nursing degree from a course approved by the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC).

To start an undergraduate nursing degree you’ll need a minimum of five GCSEs (grade 4/C or above), including maths, English and a science, and two or usually three A-levels, including a science – some unis ask for biology specifically.

If you already have a relevant undergraduate degree, a two-year postgraduate diploma in nursing is another route into the profession.

As an undergraduate or postgraduate nursing student you can receive non-repayable funding support of between £5,000 and £8,000 per year towards your studies.

Another way to get into nursing is by completing a nursing apprenticeship. Funded by a potential employer, this combines paid, on-the-job experience with study – typically over four years, but possibly less depending on your qualifications and experience.

What would I do as a nurse?

As a nurse you’ll play a central role in the care of your patients. You’ll be responsible for their treatment, but also there to give emotional support.

You’ll carry out a wide range of duties, focusing on the immediate needs of your patients – whether those arise from an accident or injury, or from an ongoing health issue. You’ll be part of a team dedicated to the treatment and care of patients and you’ll find yourself assisting doctors, consultants and other specialists. You’ll also be closely involved in developing care plans for your patients, as well as keeping records of their treatment and reporting on their progress.

There’s a wide variety of tasks involved in nursing but your duties will most likely include:

  • Helping doctors with physical examinations and care plans
  • Responding to emergencies
  • Carrying out early assessments of a patient’s condition
  • Cleaning and dressing wounds
  • Taking patients’ temperatures, checking their blood pressure and pulse
  • Administering drugs and injections
  • Taking blood samples
  • Setting up drips and blood transfusions
  • Monitoring a patient’s progress and keeping records
  • Keeping patients and their families informed and reassured
  • Handling sensitive and confidential information
  • Organising workloads
  • Educating patients about their own health and care
  • Tutoring student nurses

Becoming a nurse could be for you if…

  1. You want your work to matter

What you do every day as a nurse makes a real difference to people’s lives.

  1. You’re good with people

You’ll quickly need to win the trust and confidence of your patients and their families.

  1. You have stamina

Nursing is highly rewarding but it can be demanding, physically and emotionally so you’ll need in-built resilience.

  1. You keep calm and carry on

In a hospital or a clinical setting, situations arise quickly and you’ll need to stay calm and capable throughout.

  1. You’re the organised one

Managing a busy workload and balancing the different demands of your patients, you’ll need a firm grip on your schedule.

What are the typical working hours for a nurse?

Nurses usually work a standard 37.5-hour week.

Nurses in hospitals work in shifts which means regularly working unsocial hours.

If you’re working in other healthcare environments – in the community or in a specialist unit –  the hours may be 09:00 to 17:00.


The NHS works in salary bands and qualified nurses in England are paid a band 5 salary which ranges from £24,907 to £30,615. With experience you could see that rise up to £37,890 if you move into a senior position.

Advanced nurses, lead nurses, modern matrons and nurse consultants can earn an annual salary from £38,890 to £73,664.

For more information