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Nursing

The job of a nurse of any kind is a busy, varied and highly responsible role, based in a range of settings including hospitals, GP practices, schools, clinics and other community locations. The clinical skills and training as well as the strong desire to help and care for people forms the basis of this essential, hands-on career path.

There are a quite a few different routes you can take in nursing, training directly from school, developing people skills and experience in other roles in health and care (such as a Healthcare Assistant) before moving into nurse training, or even undertaking an apprenticeship, meaning you can work and earn whilst you complete your training.

The demand for nurses is always strong, with a consistently high percentage of student nurses securing a job placement directly after completing their training course.

Discover just some of the roles on offer within the nursing sector, as well as some information about entry requirements and potential career routes, below.

Adult Nursing

As the name would suggest, an Adult Nurse specialises in taking care of people aged over 18. Completing training and working towards qualifying for this role rewards you with excellent employment aspects, flexibility and the knowledge that you’re making a real difference in people’s lives. Adult Nurses will observe patients and help to assess their needs, assisting with planning (and delivering) the best possible care – this may be to treat short or long-term illnesses, a wide range of conditions.

Adult Nurses are an essential part of multidisciplinary teams in hospitals (wards and outpatient units) as well as within clinics and patients’ homes.

Typical entry requirements:

  • The most common route for adult nursing is via completion of a university degree
  • For undergraduate courses, 2 or 3 A-Levels (or equivalent, such as an advanced GNVQ or Level 3 NVQ) / 5 GCSEs (A-C/4-9) including English language/literature and a science
  • Apprenticeships are an increasingly popular option as an entry route into nursing (or to start on the path towards a role as a Nursing Associate)

GENERAL PRACTICE NURSE

Part of the primary care team, General Practice Nurses (GPNs) are usually based within GP surgeries and are an essential part of delivering care to patients of all ages and backgrounds. You may share duties, and work closely, with other practice nurses across a wide range of aspects of care, such as taking blood samples, ECGs, some wound management, vaccinations and travel health advice, immunisations, family planning and sexual health services, women and men’s health and smoking cessation. Healthcare Assistants based within GP surgeries may work under the supervision of General Practice Nurses.

As a GPN, you may have the opportunity to undertake further training to apply for senior roles, like Senior Practice Nurse, Nurse Practitioner or Advanced Nurse Practitioner.

Typical entry requirements:

  • To work as a GPN you must first be a qualified, registered Adult, Paediatric, Mental Health or Learning Disability Nurse, and willing to undertake further training
    • See other nursing roles for entry requirements for undergraduate courses
  • Alternatively, you may take steps towards becoming a GPN by starting out as a Healthcare Assistant or Assistant Practitioner and developing your skills

Healthcare Support Worker

Healthcare Support Workers, or HCSWs, work as part of a wider health and social care team, helping to provide high levels of patient care in hospitals, GP practices, health centres and care homes to make patients more comfortable and see to their immediate needs. This is a hands-on role which can deliver a lot of variety; you could be based in a range of settings, from children’s services to mental health to community or primary care, helping the elderly, disabled or those with long-term illnesses.

Duties might include:

  • Basic health checks and monitoring patients
  • Washing and dressing patients, or helping them go to the toilet
  • Helping them to eat and/or prepare meals
  • Basic day-to-day tasks (such as making beds or tidying up)
  • Taking blood samples
  • Sterilising equipment and areas
  • Processing samples
  • Administrative tasks
  • And more…


HCSWs may also be known as Care Assistants, Healthcare Assistants (HCAs), or Nursing/Midwifery Assistants (dependent on specialism).

Click here to view the HCSW Nursing Career Pathway.

Typical entry requirements:

  • Requirements vary based on specific role and employer, as no set requirements for this role
  • Employers may expect relevant qualifications, such as GCSE grades, or equivalent, in English and maths, or in some cases a healthcare BTEC or NVQ
  • Prior experience in a related role, such as management or project management, is usually beneficial
  • Apprenticeships may also be available in this area

LEARNING DISABILITY Nurse

A nurse in this kind of role works with people with learning disabilities, helping them to lead fulfilling lives as well as, often, providing support to their families. Learning Disability Nurses play a vital role in a variety of health and care settings, with patients of any age, taking on a range of duties to help maintain or improve their mental and physical health. In this role, you may also help people to develop new skills (e.g. to help them find work), supporting them to live a more independent life and better relate to others. This can have a significant positive impact on people’s wellbeing, especially when working with children as they grow into adolescence and adulthood; you really are making a difference.

Typical entry requirements:

  • The most common route for learning disability nursing is via completion of a university degree
  • For undergraduate courses, 2 or 3 A-Levels (or equivalent, such as an advanced GNVQ or Level 3 NVQ) / 5 GCSEs (A-C/4-9) including English language/literature and a science
  • Apprenticeships are an increasingly popular option as an entry route into nursing (or to start on the path towards a role as a Nursing Associate)

Mental Health Nurse

Mental Health Nurse is a demanding, but fulfilling role, in which you’ll work hard to support both children and adults with a variety of mental health conditions. It’s important to build and maintain an effective relationship with your patients and their families/carers, helping individuals to understand their condition and how it might be managed. Duties could range from helping a person to take their medication correctly, to advising on (or promoting) social activities or therapy options that may be beneficial to them.

Depending on the appointment, you might be based within a hospital (e.g. on a specialist unit or psychiatric ward) or based within the community, in patients’ homes or community health centres.

Typical entry requirements:

  • The most common route for learning disability nursing is via completion of a university degree
  • For undergraduate courses, 2 or 3 A-Levels (or equivalent, such as an advanced GNVQ or Level 3 NVQ) / 5 GCSEs (A-C/4-9) including English language/literature and a science
  • Apprenticeships are an increasingly popular option as an entry route into nursing (or to start on the path towards a role as a Nursing Associate)

Nursing Associate

A relatively new role within the nursing team, a Nursing Associate helps Healthcare Support Workers and registered nurses to look after patients, within all four fields of nursing (adult, children, mental health and learning disability), covering a wide range of duties, some of which may include:

  • Clinical tasks such as ECGs and venepuncture
  • Clinical observations (taking blood pressure, temperature, pulse and respiration)
  • Briefing other nursing staff on details of a patient’s conditions (test results, condition, behaviour)
  • Patient-facing tasks (supporting them and their families upon receiving bad news, recognising the signs of issues requiring safeguarding [like vulnerable children], empowering patients to manage their own conditions, health promotion etc)

A Nursing Associate role might also be a career step in which you will develop skills and experience that will help you towards becoming a registered nurse (and beyond!).

Typical entry requirements:

  • To join the Nursing Associate apprenticeship training programme, you will usually at least need GCSEs (A-C/9-4), including maths and English, though some employers may require additional Level 3 qualifications
  • If you do not have the relevant qualifications, you may be asked to complete additional literacy or numeracy tests in order to be eligible

Paediatric (Children’s) Nurse

Paediatric Nurses work with people under the age of 18, who have specific healthcare needs that differ to those of an adult. Understanding those needs, and knowing how best to communicate with children and interpret their behaviour, is integral for these kinds of nurses. You could be taking care of anyone from a new-born baby up to a teenager, and due to the patients’ young age, this role will usually also include providing a level of support for their family members and/or carers. This is a highly varied role, with excellent employment prospects, and your work as part of a wider multidisciplinary team (in hospitals, clinics and within the community) truly makes a big difference in people’s lives.

Typical entry requirements:

  • The most common route for paediatric nursing is via completion of a university degree
  • For undergraduate courses, 2 or 3 A-Levels (or equivalent, such as an advanced GNVQ or Level 3 NVQ) / 5 GCSEs (A-C/4-9) including English language/literature and a science
  • Apprenticeships are an increasingly popular option as an entry route into nursing (or to start on the path towards a role as a Nursing Associate)