Children's Nurse

The Job and What's Involved

Children's nurses, also known as paediatric nurses, provide care to children and young people (under the age of 18) with a range of conditions often linked to acute or long-term health problems.

Children are not always able to fully communicate how they are feeling. As a children's nurse, you would use your observational skills and knowledge of child development to interpret behaviour and identify when a child's health has deteriorated.

Your duties would usually include:

  • Working with doctors to assess the needs of ill, injured or disabled children.
  • Deciding on the level of nursing care required, taking into account the child's circumstances.
  • Work closely with parents and carers to minimise stress and other effects connected with being ill and staying in hospital.
  • Teaching parents or carers the skills they need to continue treatment with the child when they return home.

The practical nursing care you give could include:

- Checking temperatures
- Measuring blood pressure and respiration rates
- Assisting doctors with physical examinations
- Giving drugs and injections
- Cleaning and dressing wounds
- Administering blood transfusions and drips
- Using hi-tech medical equipment

You would work closely with other professionals including healthcare assistants, doctors, social workers and hospital play specialists.

With experience, you could go on to specialise in an area such as burns and plastics, child protection, cancer care, neonatal nursing or intensive care.

You would typically 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 special children's hospital or hospice, on a children's ward in a general hospital, or (after further training) in paediatric intensive care. You could also work in the community, within a GP practice or child health clinic.

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.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

There are around 670,000 nurses in the UK and the majority are employed by the NHS.

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

Education and Training

To work as a children's nurse, you need a Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) approved degree or Diploma of Higher Education in Nursing (child branch).*

To get on to an approved course, you need:

Proof of your English and maths skills, good health and good character.

Evidence of recent successful study experience (especially if you have been out of education for a number of years).

You must also agree to aCriminal Records Bureau (CRB).

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.

Advanced Diplomas in Children's 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).

* 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.

Nursing diploma and degree courses attract non-repayable bursaries to cover living expenses. Bursaries for a diploma (or Advanced Diploma) 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 both courses. Check the NHS Business Services Authority website for details.

It could be an advantage 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 could prepare for a nursing course through a two-year Cadet Scheme or Apprenticeship. Schemes vary between NHS Trusts, but usually combine clinical placements with working towards an NVQ 3 in Health.

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

There are different arrangements for Apprenticeships in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

For further information visit My World of Work, Careers Wales; and for Northern Ireland contact

You could also contact your local NHS Trust for details of cadet 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 work 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).

A Few More Exams You Might Need

Once you are on a nurse training programme you will divide your time between university or college, and supervised placements in local hospitals and the community. Courses usually take three years full-time 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 the children's branch of nursing and study the development and care of children who are healthy as well as sick. You will also spend around 50% of the course on relevant clinical placements.

To work as a children's nurse in the community, you will usually need to take a Specialist Practitioner Community Children's Nurse Programme; check the NMC website for details.

Nursing and Midwifery Council (approved programmes search facility)

Professional registration – 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.

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Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

A children's nurse needs:

  • A genuine interest in helping and caring for children.
  • Good observational skills.
  • The ability to make decisions and act quickly when you notice changes in patients' health.
  • The ability to comfort, reassure and gain the trust of patients.
  • Excellent communication and listening skills.
  • An awareness of the variety of techniques that can be used to communicate with children, such as play.
  • The authority and confidence to deal with children or parents in stressful circumstances.
  • The ability to teach parents or carers basic nursing skills.
  • Physical and mental stamina.
  • Good organisational and time management skills.
  • The ability to remain calm under pressure.
  • A mature, compassionate and sensitive manner.

Your Long Term Prospects

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.

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 position. Consultants work directly and independently with patients, carry out research and develop and deliver training (you may need to be working towards a PhD in a relevant subject).

As a children's nurse, you could train as a health visitor, neonatal or school nurse or practice nurse in a doctor's surgery.

You could also train in another branch (adult, 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).

You could also become self-employed or work overseas.

Get Further Information

NHS England: NHS Careers
PO Box 2311, Bristol BS2 2ZX
Tel: 0845 606 0655

NHS Scotland: Careers and Opportunities in the NHS Scotland
Tel: 0845 601 4647

NHS Wales: Careers and Opportunities in the NHS Wales
/> Website:

Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC),
23 Portland Place, London W1B 1PZ
Tel: 020 7637 7181

The Royal College of Midwives,
15 Mansfield Street, London W1G 9NH
Tel: 020 7312 3535

Royal College of Nursing (RCN),
20 Cavendish Square, London W1G 0RN
Tel: 020 7409 3333

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

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