How to Become a Nurse: A Comprehensive Guide

If you want a career in the health and social care sector where you can make a real difference to people’s lives on a daily basis, nursing could be your ideal job.

Nurses fulfil a vital role in the healthcare sector, providing care for individuals, their families and the communities they live in. They act as their patients’ main point of contact, monitoring their condition, coordinating their care and administering medical procedures.

If you’re considering working as a nurse, this guide will tell you everything you need to know about how to become a nurse. 

You’ll discover the roles and responsibilities of a nurse, how to become a registered nurse and what to expect from a career in nursing. You’ll also find out how online healthcare training courses help support vital Continuous Professional Development (CPD) for nurses.

What does a nurse do?

There are many different types of nurses, and you could specialise in a specific area of healthcare, such as paediatric care, mental health nursing or cardiac nursing. Some nurses specialise in outpatient care, looking after people who require treatment but don’t need to be admitted to hospital. 

Where do nurses work?

Most nurses work for large healthcare organisations such as the NHS or in private clinics and hospitals. Some nurses may take on roles in charities or hospices or work in community settings, schools and residential care homes. 

Nurses can also find work through nursing employment agencies or provide consultancy services on a self-employed basis.

Nursing is a diverse field that offers plenty of opportunities for career progression. You could choose to focus on a specific area of nursing, like mental health, paediatrics or geriatrics, become a matron or advanced nurse practitioner or move into a nursing management role.  

Personal qualities of a nurse

If you want to work as a nurse, you will need excellent interpersonal skills and a caring, empathetic attitude. You also need to enjoy working closely with patients.

As well as patient care, nurses must maintain confidential patient records, carry out risk assessments and write reports. They work alongside other professional healthcare staff such as GPs, specialists, and consultants, so being able to work as a team is essential. 

Nursing is a physically demanding role, as you will need to be able to lift and move patients and equipment. It’s also emotionally challenging and involves complex high-pressure situations, including incidents of workplace violence, so you will need to be emotionally resilient as well as physically fit. 

How to become a nurse: qualifications and training

The nursing profession requires specific qualifications and training. If you’re interested in becoming a nurse, here’s a guide to how to get into nursing:

Degree in nursing

Becoming a nurse requires a nursing degree from an approved educational institution (AEI) approved by the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC). Studying this type of undergraduate degree usually requires three years of full-time study.

Applicants for nursing degree courses usually need to have two or three A levels in appropriate subjects, which should include a science. They also need at least four or five GCSEs (grades 9-4 or A*–C), including Maths, English Language and at least one science.

Alternative routes into nursing

If you already have a degree in an associated subject, like social work, psychology or biological sciences, you may be eligible for a fast-track postgraduate course. This could allow you to train to become a nurse in just two years rather than the usual three years.

There’s also the option of a nursing degree apprenticeship, which generally requires applicants to have the same GCSEs and A levels as a degree.

Work experience and volunteering

Work experience and volunteering can help you on your path to becoming a nurse. You could get a paid role as a nursing associate in the healthcare sector or find a volunteer role at a charity or within your local NHS trust. You may also be able to find work placements in residential care homes or private clinics.

NMC registration

Once you have completed your nurse qualifications, you must register with the NMC (Nursing and Midwifery Council) to work as a registered nurse in the UK.

Continuous Professional Development (CPD) for nurses

Nursing standards, technologies, techniques and best practices change constantly, so it’s essential to ensure your skills and knowledge are kept up to date. 

Continuing Professional Development (CPD) training for nurses is a requirement for maintaining your NMC registration. Nurses have a busy work schedule, and it can be tricky to fit training into your regular work week, so online healthcare courses are a convenient way to meet the CPD requirements for nurses and progress your career. 

Some of the relevant CPD courses for nurses include:

Caredemy CPD online training courses allow you to study at your own pace, with clear online course materials that you can also download to study offline and support from our Student Support team.

Caredemy CPD courses are CPDSO accredited, and you can download a nationally recognised course certificate when you have completed the end-of-course assessment. 

Together with the Caredemy personal learner dashboard, this makes it easy to keep track of your CPD hours to ensure you meet the mandatory NMC CPD requirements to maintain your nursing registration.

Being a nurse is not easy, and becoming a nurse requires dedication, compassion, and constant learning.

But nursing is a rewarding career choice that will give you the opportunity every day to impact people’s lives positively. You will be able to go home at the end of your working day knowing that you have made a difference to your patients and their families.

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