Let’s take a look at some of the most common myths.
Many years ago this might have been considered true, but not any more. Modern nurses are skilled, knowledgeable and work independently as part of a team of healthcare professionals.
Modern nurses work independently and are empowered to improve patient outcomes. It’s a very different job compared to the old stereotypes.
As well as nurses, multidisciplinary teams include all levels of healthcare professional. Ward managers and consultant anaesthetists, physiotherapists and surgeons, speech therapists and social workers, psychiatrists and many more.
Nurses are responsible for making sure patients receive the most appropriate care in the most suitable way, and nurses’ roles are constantly developing to meet patient needs.
I really enjoy how the scope of nursing practice is expanding. For graduates, there are opportunities to specialise quickly if you put the work in. Some really exciting roles are available to nurses now.
Senior or specialist nurses are usually very well qualified, holding one or more post-graduate qualifications, and are highly respected for their clinical knowledge.
There is a huge range of nursing roles on offer, in many different locations. It all depends on what kind of nursing you want to do, and where and how you want to do it.
As a forensic nurse practitioner, I assess people detained in police custody and determine if they are fit for custody and for interview. I absolutely love this job, It gives me excitement and challenge.
See work in different places for more details of options open to nurses.
The thought of nursing patients with brain or spine problems seemed scary at first, but I was soon enjoying the challenge. It’s fast-paced, with exciting research going on all the time.
To become a registered nurse you will need to a degree, which are usually 3-year courses if undertaken full time. There are also some part-time courses available.
During your studies you will spend half your time doing practical placements in different settings and in different areas of nursing. This will develop your clinical knowledge, observation and communication skills, and you will learn how to analyse patient needs and evaluate the impact of your interventions.
At any given time I could be answering clinical and best practice queries by email; teaching CPR sessions; handling cardiac arrest debriefs, or auditing resuscitation equipment.
Once you qualify, the learning doesn’t stop. To remain on the Nursing and Midwifery Council register, all nurses must do Continued Professional Development (CPD). This could involve anything from training courses or conferences, to studying for specialist qualifications and leadership development.
The most important skill for any nurse is being able to use what you learn to improve patient care.
Like any profession, nursing can be challenging and demanding at times, but also very satisfying. Full-time nurses work a standard 37.5 hour week.
Different roles have different requirements: anything from shift work to normal office hours, and plenty of options in between. For more details see pay and work conditions.
The NHS supports flexible working, so whatever your circumstances you can usually find hours to suit you.
I’m not working crazy hours, just office hours: 9 to 5, Monday to Friday. I can do flexi-time as standard and recently, when both my kids had chicken pox for two weeks, I was even able to work from home and come to the unit in the evenings.
NHS starting salaries for graduates start on over £21,000 a year with opportunity to earn more with overtime and other additional payments, which compares very well with other public sector jobs. See pay comparisons for more information.
All nursing roles belong to a clear pay scales with defined salaries, so you can plan your career path and see how your earnings could look at each step. The highest paid NHS nurses can earn up to £97,500.
I went into nursing with no idea about salaries and I’ve been amazed at the quick progression. I never dreamed I’d be earning over £40k already.
Even before you start working as a registered nurse, you can get financial support for your full-time diploma or degree course.
There’s no such thing as a specific ‘nursing type of person.’ Nursing attracts – and needs – men and women with diverse backgrounds, skills and qualities.
In A&E I was shown how to cope with absolutely anything, and I did things I never dreamed of. The person I am now is very different from the person I used to be.
Many of the skills needed for nursing are highly transferable and desirable in other professions:
So whatever life stage you are at, whether leaving school, switching career or returning to work, you don’t have to rule out nursing.
After 11 years as a project manager, I switched. Nursing offered me that ‘human touch’. it has definitely been worth it.
You may find your personality influences the branch of nursing you choose to study or the career path you follow: why not take our personality quiz and see where you could end up?
Still not sure whether nursing is for you? Try spending some time as a volunteer.
Find out where your local NHS trust is based and contact them direct to ask about work experience or volunteering opportunities.
Your local Jobcentre Plus will also have information about volunteering opportunities in your area, or you can get in touch with local nursing homes and care centres.
The biggest shame of all would be to overlook such a fantastic career opportunity, with all its life-changing experiences.
National organisations are usually on the lookout for volunteers too. Try:
The best thing about this job – in fact, this career – is that every day I find myself thinking: "Well, I’ve seen it all now.’ And then something new comes in.
Your best points – what do they point towards? Take our fun quiz to see which branch of nursing is for you.
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