Adult nurses assess, plan and provide care to patients (aged 18 and over) who are ill, injured or have physical disabilities.
They observe and evaluate patients' progress and adapt the care they give in consultation with doctors. They may also counsel patients and their relatives.
As an adult nurse, the practical care you give could include:
You could specialise in an area such as accident and emergency, cardiac rehabilitation, outpatients, neonatal nursing, and operating theatre work.
As well as hospitals, you could also work in the community, in 'walk-in' health centres, clinics or prisons.
You would usually work 37.5 hours a week, which can include evenings, weekends, night shifts and bank holidays. Many hospitals offer flexible hours or part-time work. Extra hours may also be available.
You could work in a variety of settings including hospital wards, hospices, schools, private hospitals, and in the community visiting patients at home.
Nurses can earn between £20,700 and £26,800 a year.
Nurse team leaders and managers can earn around £33,000 to £39,300. Nurse consultants can earn up to £65,600.
Extra allowances may be paid to those living in or around London.
There are around 670,000 nurses in the UK.
You will find most jobs in the NHS, but you could also work with private hospitals and nursing homes, schools and colleges, HM Forces, the prison service and in industry.
Vacancies are advertised in local newspapers, on the jobs bulletins and websites of NHS trusts and charities, in specialist magazines like Nursing Times, and at www.jobs.nhs.uk.
To work as an adult nurse, you need a Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) approved degree or Diploma of Higher Education in Nursing (adult branch).
To get on to an approved course, you need:
Course providers can also set their own academic entry requirements, which can include:
Nursing diploma – five GCSE's (A-C) preferably in English, maths and/or a science-based subject.
Nursing degree – the same GCSE's as the diploma, plus two or three A levels, possibly including a biological science.
Some institutions offer Advanced Diplomas in Adult Nursing. This qualification and the entry requirements for it lie between diploma and degree level.
Check with universities for exact entry details because alternative qualifications, such as an Access to Higher Education course, may also be accepted. For a list of degree and diploma course providers and application advice, visit the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) website.
The NMC are raising the minimum level of pre-registration nurse education from diploma to degree. The first degree programmes following the new standards are expected to begin September 2011. The final opportunity to start the nursing diploma will be Spring 2013. From September 2013, students will ONLY be able to qualify as a nurse by studying for a degree.
Funding – nursing diploma and degree courses attract non-repayable bursaries to cover living expenses. Bursaries for diploma courses are non-income-assessed (non-means tested). However, NHS bursaries for the degree are subject to a full income-assessment. Course fees are usually paid. For more information on NHS student bursaries, see the NHS Business Services Authority website.
You may have an advantage when applying for a course, if you also have some relevant paid or voluntary experience. Contact the voluntary services coordinator or manager at your local NHS Trust for further advice.
Alternative entry routes
You may be able to get into this job through an Apprenticeship scheme. The range of Apprenticeships available in your area will depend on the local jobs market and the types of skills employers need from their workers. To find out more about Apprenticeships, visit the Apprenticeships website.
Apprenticeships and Advanced Apprenticeships provide structured training with an employer. As an apprentice you must be paid at least £95 per week; you may well be paid more. A recent survey found that the average wage for apprentices was £170 a week. Your pay will depend on the sector in which you work, your age, the area where you live and the stage at which you have arrived in the Apprenticeship.
Entry to Employment (e2e) can help to prepare those who are not yet ready for an Apprenticeship. In addition, Young Apprenticeships may be available for 14- to 16-year-olds. More information is available from a Connexions personal adviser or at www.apprenticeships.org.uk.
There are different arrangements for Apprenticeships in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
You could also contact your local NHS Trust for details of schemes in your area.
If you are a healthcare assistant with an NVQ Level 3 in Health (and support from your employer) you may be able to complete nurse training on a part-time basis by applying for a secondment. You would receive a salary whilst studying and once qualified, you may need to commit to working with the NHS Trust that funded you for a minimum period.
If you have a degree in a subject related to health or nursing, you could qualify by taking an accelerated programme for graduates. You can search for courses on the NHS Careers Course Finder facility.
As a nurse trained outside the UK and EEA, you may need to complete the Overseas Nurses Programme (ONP) before you begin work. Occasionally, EEA trained nurses may also be required to take an aptitude test (or similar) in order to prove professional competence (see the NMC website for details).
Once you are on a nurse training programme you will divide your time between university and supervised placements in local hospitals and the community. Most courses are full-time and take three years to complete.
During the first year you will follow the Common Foundation Programme, which includes:
An introduction to the four branches of nursing and maternity care.
Developing observational, communication and caring skills.
Studying anatomy, physiology, psychology, sociology, social policy.
Learning core practical caring skills.
For the remaining two years of training, you will specialise in adult nursing and work in relevant clinical placements.
With further study (for example to Masters-level) you may be able to apply for advanced nurse practitioner (ANP) and clinical nurse specialist (CNS) posts. Experience in these roles can lead to a nurse consultant job. Consultants work directly and independently with patients, carry out research and deliver training (you may need to be working towards a PhD in a relevant subject).
As a qualified nurse you must renew your professional registration with the NMC every three years. To re-register you need to have worked a minimum of 450 hours and completed at least 35 hours' professional development every three years. Check with the NMC for details.
Return to practice
If you are a former registered nurse wishing to return to the profession, you can take a return-to-practice course. Contact your local NHS Trust for details.
As an ambulance technician you would respond to accident and emergency calls, as well as a range of planned and unplanned non-emergency cases. You would usually work in a team, providing support to a paramedic during the assessment, diagnosis and treatment of patients at the scene of an incident and during hospital transfers.
You may use life saving skills as part of your day-to-day work.
An immigration officer needs:
With experience you could progress to sister, ward manager or team leader with responsibility for running a ward or a team of nurses in the community. You could go on to other management roles, such as a matron or director of nursing.
As a qualified adult nurse, you could train in another branch (child, learning disability or mental health) by completing a 'second registration' course (these take around one year and you will usually need evidence of recent study and financial support from your employer).
Alternatively, you could go on to train as a midwife, neonatal nurse, health visitor, district or practice nurse. You could also find opportunities for self-employment or overseas work.
Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC),
23 Portland Place, London W1B 1PZ
Tel: 020 7333 9333
Queens University of Belfast,
School of Nursing and Midwifery,
Medical Biology Centre, 97 Lisburn Road, Belfast BT9 7BL
Tel: 028 9097 2233
University of Ulster at Jordanstown,
School of Nursing,
Shore Road, Newtownabbey, Co Antrim BT37 0QB
Tel: 08700 400 700
Health Learning and Skills Advice Line
Tel: 08000 150850
PO Box 376,
Bristol BS99 3EY
Tel: 0345 60 60 655
Additional resources for job seekers and those already in a job.