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How to Become a Nurse

In healthcare, nurses are as essential as doctors. In fact, some people may argue that they are more essential, because they do much of the leg work, due to the limited number of doctors. Whatever your view, it is undeniable that nursing is a career that will continue to employ a large number of people for a very long time.

What do Nurses do?

Nurses can be divided into several different specialist groups; adult, paediatric, mental health and learning disabilities. All of these nurses carry out some similar tasks, but other tasks are extremely different. Most nurses work for the NHS in hospitals, clinics, GP’s offices, or the community. Nurses can also work in private hospitals, practises, nursing homes, or even people’s houses, but the vast majority work for the NHS. Typical activities for a nurse could include.

  • Writing and implementing patient care plans
  • Monitoring patients in hospital wards
  • Changing patient dressings and administering drugs to patients in hospitals and clinics
  • Administering vaccination injections
  • Giving lifesaving emergency treatment to patients
  • Maintaining patient medical records and ensuring that they are not given any drugs that they are allergic to.
  • Learning disabilities nurses use specialist communication skills to try and engage with people with learning disabilities.
  • Mentoring and training junior nurses.


Although not as well paid as doctors, nurses are by no means badly paid. It takes hard work to become a nurse and some could argue that they deserve to be paid more, but it is still a well-paid job. One of the best benefits of course, is that being an NHS nurse is viewed as a job for life, with a very good pension.

Newly qualified Nurse (Band 5)


Experienced nurse (Band 6 - 7)

£25,528 - £40,157

Nurse Consultant (Band 8 a - c)

£38,851 - £67,134

Overtime and irregular hours (Quite common)

Additional payments

Private nursing

Varies widely depending on employer

What Qualifications are Needed

In order to become a nurse in any speciality such as adult, paediatric, mental health and learning disabilities; the minimum requirement is a degree in nursing. Most universities require students to choose a specific form of nursing, such as a degree in mental health nursing. However, some give students the option of studying the basics and specialising later on. These degrees take three years or four years if a student studies two branches of nursing at the same time (this option is not offered by all universities). The entry requirements are much lower than those of doctors, however, there is still competition and you will need to show aptitude and an enthusiasm for healthcare.

  • Undergraduate degree in nursing (3 or 4 years) 50 % theory 50% vocational in the hospital and community.
  • Some Universities also offer accelerated 2 year programmes for graduates from other healthcare degrees.
  • If you complete the degree you can register with the Nursing & Midwifery Council (NMC).
  • After registration you are a newly qualified nurse and able to take up employment and practise.

One thing that is important to point out is that the vocational supervised training can be quite intense. If you are not used to working in that kind of setting, or those hours, then it can come as quite a shock.

Career Development

Career development for nurses of all kinds is quite good. Although it is not possible for them to reach the pay scales as doctors, there is good career progression within the NHS. After all it is possible for them to become nurse consultants, which comes with an extremely good pay package. All of the various promotions come with requirements for additional training and experience, but much of this can be gained while working. Indeed, there is a requirement that nurses fulfill 35 hours of continual professional development every three years. Most nurses exceed this amount through their normal workload, so promotion should not be too hard to attain within the NHS.

In the private sector, nurses may find themselves better paid initially, but there may be little or no prospect of promotion.

Irrespective of which speciality of nursing you choose, it will be a stressful job with many irregular hours. But the benefits that you gain either through personal satisfaction, job security and a generous pension can make it all worth it. It is not an easy career path and certainly not for everyone, but if healthcare is your passion, then this may well be the career for you.  

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