How to start a career in NHS nursing

Considering changing career? Fancy retraining as an NHS nurse? Find out how to get started.

We set up the Talented Ladies Club eight years ago with the sole purpose of helping ambitious women and mothers unlock their potential and find amazing, fulfilling roles that they can be proud of. Careers that use all of their passions, intelligence and talents. 

So, we’ve partnered with the NHS and, as part of the annual recruitment campaign, ‘We are the NHS’, we’re shining a spotlight on some of the most rewarding and meaningful roles within the organisation. 

Nurses are the backbone of the NHS, working as part of a passionate multidisciplinary team to provide direct patient care. They help people with injuries, illnesses, and ailments to recover, making a real difference to patients’ lives every single day.

They treat people suffering from a variety of health conditions, from minor injuries to long-term illnesses and diseases. They work closely with their patients, gaining their trust and confidence, and supporting them with their recovery using care plans and procedures. 

If you’re a people-person and you’re excited by a rewarding career in nursing, read on to find out how you can get your foot in the door at the NHS. 

Finding the route for you

The most common route into nursing is by completing a nursing degree with full and part time courses available across the country. Nursing is the UK’s most employable type of degree, with 94% of students getting a job within six months of finishing their course. You’ll also receive at least £5,000 in financial support available for each year of your degree. 

A nursing degree isn’t all about textbooks and essays, however. You’ll get lots of practical hands-on experience with patients in hospitals and community settings.  

If you’re considering starting a degree in nursing, you can apply through UCAS. You’ll usually need two or three A levels, including a science as well as five GCSEs A* to C, including English, maths, and a science.

If you already have a science or social science degree you will have the option of doing a postgraduate course in two years rather than three. 

There are also plenty of other ways of starting your career as a nurse. A registered nurse degree apprenticeship (RNDA) offers the opportunity to earn, learn and make a difference. It’s a great, flexible way of becoming a nurse that doesn’t require full-time study at university. 

To follow this route, you will need to secure a position as an RNDA and your employer will release you to study at university part time.  You will train in a range of practice placements, for example hospitals, GP practices, people’s homes and within mental health facilities.

Specialisms to suit your interest

A career in nursing can be very broad and you can specialise in four key areas depending on what you are most interested in: mental health, learning disability, adult and children’s nursing. Sarah Trute, a learning disability nurse says:

“My career as a project manager was interesting, but I never saw how my work directly affected people.  Nursing offered me that ‘human touch’ – so after 11 years, I switched careers. Going from a senior project manager to a newly qualified nurse involved a drop in pay, but it’s definitely been worth it.”

Showing you have the right qualities

As part of your application, it’s worth highlighting examples in your life where you’ve shown commitment, ambition, care and where you’ve had diverse experiences.  Volunteering is also a great way to gain experience and can help boost your application too. 

As well as the academic requirements, a career in nursing also calls for communication skills, empathy, initiative, a strong work ethic and an interest in healthcare. If this sounds like you then it could be your perfect role. 

“What I love most is helping a client achieve something that’s really important to them, whether that’s teaching a new skill, preventing self-harm, or enabling a client to access their local community, this job is amazing.” Sarah Trute, learning disability nurse

Nursing is a great role for those looking to make the move into a more fulfilling career, and what’s more, with the skills you already have, plus the NHS’ unrivalled, on-the-job training and support, there’s no limit to where you could take your career as a nurse.

To find out more, sign up for your free guide to becoming a nurse.

Photo by SJ Objio