Becoming A Nurse – What’s The Best Route To Get You There?
If you’re thinking of becoming a nurse, you might be wondering about the different routes into the profession. Whether you’re just starting out in the medical field or you’re looking for a career change, nursing is a fulfilling and rewarding career that offers plenty of progression opportunities. As an experienced nurse, you may pursue a career in nursing management, research, education, or as part of a nurse-led clinic.
No two days in the nursing profession are the same. Nurses aren’t just based in hospitals – they also work in GP surgeries, clinics, residential homes, operating rooms, occupational health services, voluntary organisations, pharmaceutical companies, or the military.
Wherever you choose to work, and whatever your specialism, becoming a nurse requires a high level of technical competence, empathy for patients, communication and decision-making abilities. As such, there are certain qualifications and certificates you’ll be expected to have when you apply for a nursing position.
Becoming a nurse: nursing qualifications
Before you can work as a nurse, you’ll need to complete the qualifications necessary to enter the field. You will need a degree in nursing, and you must be registered with the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) before you can practice. When you enter the nursing profession, you will need to choose a specialism: adult, children mental health, or those with learning disabilities. You may already have an idea of which specialism you would like to go into, but you may wish to discuss your options with a nursing careers advice service before committing to a certain area. You can always complete further training and work experience down the line if you decide to switch.
Studying for a degree in nursing is the most common route to becoming a nurse. You can find universities offering nursing degrees on the NHS website. Entry requirements for a nursing degree vary between education facilities, and most universities set their own requirements. It’s worth checking with your university of choice before applying to ensure you meet their criteria. However, the standard entry requirements for a nursing degree are five GCSES plus two A Level equivalents. If you don’t have these qualifications, you may be able to do an Access to Learning Course or study an equivalent qualification.
As well as meeting specific entry requirements, you will also need to display the following qualities:
- Evidence of basic literacy and numeracy skills
- Communication skills
- Ability to work as part of a team
- No past criminal convictions
- Clean police records – universities won’t usually bar you if you have a minor conviction or caution, and your information will always be handled in confidence.
A nursing degree apprenticeship enables people of all backgrounds to train to become a graduate registered nurse through an apprentice scheme. As an apprentice, you will be released by your employer to study part-time in a higher education institution, as well as training in a number of different practice placement settings. You will learn to become a nurse at Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) approved education providers.
In terms of eligibility, anyone can become an apprentice nurse, providing they meet the entry requirements for the degree programme they apply for. To apply for a nursing apprenticeship, you will need to look out for vacancies advertised by your employer – if you work in the healthcare industry – or other employers on dedicated nursing job websites. If you’re not aware of any apprenticeships in your place of work, talk to your employer about your interest in a nursing degree programme to see if they can help.
Most nursing degree apprenticeships last four years. It could take longer if you decide to take time out for any reason, or if you need to spread your studies out over a longer period. If you already have prior learning and experience, it could take less than four years for you to become a nurse.
Similarly, if you’re opting for a career change – say, from dental nursing to general nursing – then any prior qualifications can be taken into account and may be counted towards your degree. This is often referred to as a qualification transfer, and can be done for all degree setups, including distance-learning courses.
Funding for becoming a nurse
As of the August 2017 NHS bursary reform, new nursing, midwifery and most allied health students no longer receive NHS bursaries. Instead, nursing students must now go down the route of the student loans system like all other university students. This also applies to new students on pre-registration courses (those which lead to registration with one of the health professional regulators).
Therefore, if you decide to undertake a nursing degree, you will need to fund it yourself or apply for a student loan. You may be entitled to a grant or some other kind of government funding, but this will depend on your individual circumstances. Eligibility for a grant or loan will depend on a number of factors, including whether you have studied before, as well as your personal finances.
Nursing degree apprentices won’t have to pay anything themselves towards their education. The cost of the apprenticeship will be paid by employers in most cases, or at last partially funded. As of April 2017, there was a new apprenticeship levy put in place. The levy requires all employers operating in the UK with a pay bill over £3 million each year to invest in apprenticeships, including healthcare businesses.
Not all nursing qualifications are obtained from bricks-and-mortar universities. If you’re thinking of becoming a nurse while looking after children or working another job, you can go down the distance-learning route. The Open University provides courses and degrees for nurses, as do many other approved organisations.
If you want to pursue your degree part-time or through distance learning, you can consult UCAS for education advice. If you are already employed in the healthcare sector, your employer may even fund your studies.
Thinking of becoming a nurse? Apply for an apprenticeship today
For the latest nursing apprenticeships and job vacancies, download the NursCo app today. You will receive personalised updates directly to your mobile, so you’ll never miss the latest job postings. You can also visit the NursCo Lounge for advice on how to begin your nursing career, or how to transition into nursing.