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Your guide on how to become a nurse

Nurses play a vital part in our healthcare, and right now, qualified nurses are in high demand. It’s a career that allows you to make a difference on a daily basis, and here in the UK there are many different areas you can choose to specialise in:

  • Mental health nurse
  • Learning disability nurse
  • Adult nurse
  • Children’s nurse
  • Nursing associate

What are the key responsibilities of a nurse?

As we have discussed above, nurses tend to specialise in one particular area. When it comes to their working environment, nurses can choose to work in either NHS or private hospitals, at a hospice, health centre, adult care home, client’s home, or in a prison. They typically work shifts over seven days a week, including both day and night shifts, and they will also have on-call rotas.

The role of a nurse includes a wide range of responsibilities. In their day-to-day role, tasks could include:

  • Checking vital signs such as temperature, blood pressure, and pulse rate.
  • Assisting doctors with physical examinations, tests, and evaluations.
  • Writing patient care plans.
  • Preparing patients for operations.
  • Giving drugs and injections.
  • Cleaning and dressing wounds.
  • Responding quickly to emergencies.
  • Setting up drips and blood transfusions.
  • Plan discharges from hospital and liaise with GPs and social workers.
  • Monitoring patients’ progress.
  • Maintain and update patient records and hand information over to colleagues on the next shift.
  • Working with doctors and other healthcare professionals to decide on the care to provide.
  • Giving advice to and communicate effectively with patients and their relatives.
Nurse on ipad
Nurses on a ward

Skills and qualities of a nurse

To succeed in your career as a nurse, you’ll need to possess or develop a number of skills and qualities. A key skillset you’ll need to become a nurse includes interpersonal and verbal communication skills because not only will you need to liaise with other medical and healthcare professionals, but you will also need to build trust with your patients and their families to allow you to support them emotionally and provide the advice and information they need. Other skills and qualities you will need to succeed in your nursing career are:

  • Empathy, sensitivity, and emotional resilience are key during difficult circumstances.
  • Written communication skills for patient records and care plans.
  • A desire to help others.
  • Observation skills and attention to detail.
  • Customer service skills.
  • Excellent team working skills.
  • Patience and the ability to remain calm and work well under pressure.
  • Good organisational and managerial skills.

How to become a nurse

There are two main routes to become a nurse in the UK, the first is studying a degree in midwifery, the second is an apprenticeship. These options are described in detail below.

University degree

When choosing a university degree, you will need to ensure that it is approved by the Nursing and Midwifery Council. Typically, your degree will take around three years to complete if you study full-time, and you will also participate in work placements, allowing you to gain real-world experience of a career in nursing.

To be accepted onto a nursing degree, you’ll need to meet the following entry requirements:

  • Five GCSEs at grades 4 to 9 (A* to C), or equivalent, including maths, English, and science.
  • Two or three A Levels, including a science (preferably biology), OR a level 3 diploma, OR an Access to HE Diploma in Health or science.
  • You can also study a nursing degree is you already hold a degree in a relevant subject.


Nursing degree apprenticeships allow candidates to gain a nursing degree and become a fully qualified nurse. The programme takes approximately four years to complete and involves a combination of workplace learning and academic study at an approved university. To secure your place on a midwifery apprenticeship, you’ll need four or five GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C), and A Levels or the equivalent.

Career progression

There are plenty of opportunities for career progression and development in nursing. You will also need to renew your Nursing and Midwifery Council registration every three years to demonstrate that you are keeping your knowledge up to date.

As you gain more experience, you could choose to specialise in a certain field such as intensive care or cardiac nursing. With experience, you could progress to become a ward sister, lead nurse, matron, team leader, or nurse consultant. Alternatively, you could complete further training to become a

One thing is for sure, a career in nursing is one of the most rewarding careers out there, meaning you’re bound to feel fulfilled and happy in your work.