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How to Build a Career in Nursing: Steps and Tips


Nursing is an exciting and rewarding career that offers a great deal of job satisfaction and career progression. And the good news is that it’s never too late to decide you want to build a career in nursing. In this blog we reveal how to start your nursing career and the steps and tips you should follow to build a nursing career.

Identify the field of nursing you are interested in

One of the benefits of a career in nursing is that it presents you with many opportunities to specialise in areas that interest you. Once qualified, it is possible to develop areas of interest further and even take your nursing career into a more managerial role if that is what excites you.

When starting out in a career in nursing, there are 4 main areas to choose from:

1. Adult Nursing

A career in adult nursing will mean working with adults of all ages with the aim of helping to make a difference to their lives. They may suffer from one or more long or short-term physical health conditions. This could include heart disease, injuries from an accident, pneumonia, arthritis, diabetes or cancer. 

You could work in a variety of settings including hospital wards, outpatient units, patients’ home and clinics. You’ll be part of the multidisciplinary teams with other professionals such as occupational therapists, pharmacists, radiographers and healthcare assistants. You’ll also work closely with patients’ families and carers. 

2. Children’s Nursing

Working in children’s nursing  could see you caring for newborn babies or adolescents who have suffered injuries. It is a very diverse field of nursing and one where you will also have to learn how to work closely with parents and guardians too. 

Children have very specific health needs and you will learn to understand how a healthy child develops towards adulthood to minimise the impact of illness. Communication is also a key factor as children cannot communicate their feelings in the same way that adults do, so a children’s nurse will need to be able to interpret behaviour and reactions.

3. Mental Health Nursing

As a mental health nurse, you will be supporting people who use mental health services. This might mean helping people to take their medication correctly or advising patients on relevant therapies and courses. 

A lot of the role is about building good relationships, with your patient, but also with their family and carers. You’ll usually be based in hospitals, for example on a psychiatric ward or specialist unit, or in the community where you could work in a community health centre or in someone’s home. If you work in a residential setting, you may do shifts and provide 24-hour care.

4. Learning Disability Nursing

Learning Disability Nurses provide specialist support to people with learning disabilities. The primary goal is to enable patients to live a fulfilling and independent life as much as possible, while also offering support to their family and staff teams.

Learning Disability Nurses work in a range of settings, including people’s homes, education, residential and community centres and hospitals. You’ll work as part of a team including GPs, psychologists, social workers, teachers, general practitioners, occupational therapists, speech and language therapists and healthcare assistants.

Explore the different routes into nursing

1. Degree

According to the NHS website, a nursing degree is the most employable type of degree with 94% of students getting a job within 6 months of finishing their course. This is still the most common route into nursing but if the thought of studying puts you off, don’t panic – a nursing degree offers practical hands-on experience, working with patients in hospital and community settings. 

Entry requirements for nursing degrees vary depending on the university but most require two or three A-Levels or A-Level equivalents. Funding is currently available to help students face the financial burden of studying at university.  

2. Apprenticeship

A Registered Nurse Degree Apprenticeship (RNDA) is a good option for anyone who wants to earn while they qualify. Apprentices work for an employer who will also release you to study part-time at an associated university. Training will take place in a range of practical settings, such as hospitals, GP surgeries, mental health facilities and people’s homes. 

Most RNDAs take 4 years to complete but this could be reduced if you have previous experience, training or qualifications.

3. Nursing Associate

Nursing associates work with healthcare support workers and registered nurses to deliver care for patients and the public. Nursing associates are not qualified nurses, but with further training, there is the opportunity to ‘top up’ your skills to become one if you are hoping to build a career in nursing. Trainee roles are often available in a variety of health and care settings giving you flexibility to move between acute, social and community and primary care.

To qualify, you will need GCSEs in Maths and English, or Functional Skills Level 2 in Maths and English.

Apply for a career in nursing

If you have decided that a career in nursing is for you, then congratulations! The next step is to apply for whichever path you think is most suitable for your skillset, budget and timeframe. For more information about how to get into nursing, take a look at our blog that details the Nursing Recruitment Process in 6 Simple Steps.

If you already have a nursing qualification and are looking to build a career in nursing, then take a look at our nursing jobs board. For any further advice about how to enjoy a career in nursing, talk to one of our nursing recruitment specialists who can offer more guidance.

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