Are you caring, compassionate and a good communicator? Then why not consider becoming a registered nurse?
Nurses make a huge difference to people’s lives and there’s plenty of scope for career progression. Read on to discover how to qualify as an RN and what patient care involves.
Registered Nurse Qualifications
To become a registered nurse in the UK, you’ll need to complete a nursing degree and be registered with the Nursing and Midwifery Council. Alternatively, you could apply for a nursing degree apprenticeship, which involves a combination of employment and part-time study. Apprenticeships generally last for four years, while nursing degrees take three.
What Do Registered Nursing Courses Involve?
Whether you want to become an oncology nurse or a geriatric nurse, all nursing education covers safe patient care, when to call for help and how to implement emergency measures. You’ll learn how to observe and assess patients’ vital signs, how to communicate sensitively with families and how to promote patient wellbeing.
As a trainee RN, only 50% of your time will be spent studying at your nursing school. The other 50% will be spent gaining nursing care experience in hospital and community settings. Some courses include a foundation year, which enables students to experience a variety of healthcare settings before specialising in adult nursing, children’s nursing, mental health nursing or learning disability nursing.
Qualifying as a registered nurse also involves making a commitment to the NHS core values, known as the 6Cs:
Once you’ve completed your registered nurse training, you’ll be the proud owner of a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) and a professional nursing qualification.
To gain a bachelor’s degree in nursing, you’ll need at least 5 GCSEs including English and Maths, as well as 2 or 3 A levels. Equivalent qualifications including Scottish highers, BTEC level 3s and access to nursing courses may also be accepted. Some universities carry out extra tests in literacy and numeracy and you’ll probably need to have done some relevant work experience.
If you already have a bachelor’s degree in a relevant subject, you might be able to reduce the length of your nursing education to two years instead of three. Relevant degree subjects include:
Registered nurse training is also available on a part-time basis, although this depends on where you want to study. While applications for for part-time nursing education are dealt with by individual universities, if you want to study full time, you’ll have to apply through UCAS.
Funding for Your BSN
If you’re on a Nursing degree course you’ll generally need to take out student loans to cover both your tuition fees and your living costs. However, there are several additional sources of funding. These include annual grants for students with young dependants and expenses payments for nursing students who face extra travel and dual accommodation expenses. If you’re facing severe financial difficulties, you may be eligible for exceptional support of up to £3000.
Any student loans you take out will be repaid over 30 years, but you won’t pay anything back until you’re earning over £21,000.
Job Prospects for Registered Nurses
Extra registered nurses are needed by the NHS by 2020
Growth is very strong
of BSN students get a job within 6 months of finishing
Modern matrons and nurse
practitioners earn up to
Nursing team leaders earn up to
Registered Nurse Specialisms
Adult Nurses in the NHS
Nursing adults requires compassion, organisation and the ability to prioritise, as you’ll be assessing and providing healthcare for a number of patients with different needs. Being a patient listener is also important, as nurses are often expected to advise and reassure distressed families.
Registered nurses care for adults on hospital wards and in specialist departments. They also work in community clinics, GP surgeries, walk in centres and nursing homes. Over the next few years, more community based jobs will become available, as the government focuses on home healthcare.
Once you’ve gained some experience as an RN, you can choose to specialise in a particular field, such as intensive care, ear nose and throat or accident and emergency. With experience, you could even become an advanced nurse practitioner. Alternatively you could move into management, nursing education or research.
child nurses in the NHS
BSN places this year
As a children’s nurse, you’ll need a sound understanding of child development and excellent communication skills. You also need to be extremely observant, as children’s health can deteriorate very rapidly.
If you opt for this nursing specialism, you’ll often find yourself reassuring distressed parents and siblings. This requires patience, empathy and basic counselling skills.
Once you’ve qualified as an RN, you could work in a hospital and rise through the ranks to become an advanced nurse practitioner. Alternatively, you could become a school nurse, a health visitor or a clinical researcher.
Mental Health Nursing
Mental Health Nurses in the NHS
BSN places this year
One in four people in the UK will experience a mental health problem this year, so a nursing career in this area gives you the chance to really make a difference. As an RN specialising in mental health, you’ll support patients’ wellbeing in a variety of ways.
When patients are admitted to hospital, you’ll help them to take their medication properly and identify whether they’re at risk of harming themselves or other people. You’ll also be responsible for explaining their condition, advising them about appropriate therapies and encouraging them to take part in social activities.
To enjoy mental health nursing you need to have a warm, engaging personality, strong communication skills and plenty of empathy.
During your nursing degree you’ll be trained to reduce the risk of patient violence by spotting and diffusing any build up of tension.
Once you’ve qualified as an RN, you’ll be able to apply for nursing jobs in hospital intensive care units, psychiatric wards, outpatients units, GP surgeries and residential homes. With experience you could also work towards a master’s degree, become involved with nursing education or move into advanced practice.
Learning Disability Nursing
Disability Nurses in the NHS
As a Learning disability RN, you’ll help adults and children with learning disabilities to live healthy, independent lives. You’ll assess their needs, create care plans, administer medication and assist them with everyday activities like shopping, travelling and cooking. You’ll also help them to access resources, benefits and social activities.
You need excellent interpersonal skills to succeed in this nursing specialism, as you’ll be communicating regularly with patients, family members and other health professionals.
Once you’ve gained your BSN, you could work with the NHS, private charities, specialist schools or social services, providing residential or home based healthcare. You could also become a clinical nurse specialist.
What is Registered Nursing Like?
Life as a registered nurse is physically and emotionally challenging, but also incredibly fulfilling. Once you’ve registered with the Nursing and Midwifery Council, you’ll work as part of a team of healthcare professionals including GPs, psychologists, social workers, occupational therapists and speech therapists. You nursing job may also involve working shifts, which can take some getting used to!