How to become a paediatric nurse in the UK
If you’ve been thinking about a career in paediatric nursing, there’s never been a better time.
As a paediatric nurse, you’ll be a crucial part of a multidisciplinary team providing care to babies, children and teenagers under 18. With many healthcare settings to work within and areas to specialise in, it is a career with numerous possibilities.
Within this article, we have outlined the qualifications you need to become a paediatric nurse, the skills and qualities that great paediatric nurses possess along with the career path and progression opportunities that are available to you.
Qualifications and training needed to become a paediatric nurse
There are different routes you can take to become a paediatric nurse, as with any other nursing specialism. This includes completing a nursing degree, taking part in a nursing degree apprenticeship or starting as a nursing associate.
The most common pathway to becoming a paediatric nurse is to go to university to complete a degree in children’s nursing. A full-time course typically takes three years. Some courses also allow you to study a secondary area of nursing, such as adult nursing, alongside paediatric nursing.
If you already have a degree in a related subject such as psychology, life sciences or social work, you may be able to join in the second year of a nursing degree
Entry requirements can differ slightly between universities. To get accepted onto a nursing course, you’ll typically need to have at least 5 GCSEs at Grades 4 or above, including English, Maths and Science. You’ll also need at least 2 A-levels (typically one will need to be a science subject) or an alternative qualification such as a relevant Access to HE Diploma.
After completing your degree, you need to register with the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC).
Nursing degree apprenticeship (NDA)
This flexible route to becoming a paediatric nurse typically combines four years of part-time study with permanent employment in healthcare. After completing the course, you will have a degree and full registered nurse status.
While studying, you’ll receive at least a minimum apprenticeship wage and your employer will also pay for your tuition fees, releasing you for one day each week so you can study. In some cases, you might be eligible to qualify in three rather than four years via the Accreditation of Prior Experiential Learning (APEL).
Once you’ve completed the apprenticeship, you’ll need to register with the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC).
Nursing associates support other nurses and healthcare workers in caring for patients and the role can lead to you becoming a registered nurse without having to study for a degree. As a nursing associate, you can choose to specialise in any of the four main fields of nursing, including paediatrics. You’ll typically need GCSEs at Grade 4 or above, including Maths and English (or Functional Skills Level 2 or 3 in Maths and English, depending on your employer’s requirements). Once you’ve finished training, you can study for a shorter nursing degree or nurse degree apprenticeship.
For more information on becoming a nurse associate and the requirements needed, visit the NHS careers website.
What skills and qualities do you need in paediatric nursing?
When you become a paediatric nurse, along with strong clinical skills and medical knowledge, you’ll also need to be a great communicator with adults and children. As you offer support to young patients, their families, and carers, it is also important to possess kindness, empathy, sensitivity and intuition.
These skills and qualities are essential because, on a day-to-day basis, you’ll be carrying out duties such as:
- Working with doctors to assess a child’s condition
- Administering medication and treating injuries
- Monitoring each child’s progress, sharing information with other healthcare professionals
- Supporting children and their parents/carers in the hospital, observing children’s behaviour, and listening to their concerns
- Advising on children’s care once they return home
Gain experience to become a paediatric nurse
When looking to become a paediatric nurse, it is important to spend time getting relevant experience. It will help you to:
- Demonstrate that you’re focused on your career and know what’s involved before you apply
- Develop new skills that you’ll be able to use no matter what job you end up doing
- Discover if children’s nursing is really for you
- Feel certain you’ve made the right choice before you commit to a course
- Gain self-confidence
- Have something to discuss when you go to interviews
- Make a difference to other people
Experience can be gained in several ways, including:
- Volunteering at a local hospital or hospice
- A work experience placement
- A full or part-time job
- An internship
If you’re aged 16-30, you can also register with the Prince’s Trust. They hold regular courses with the NHS that include work placements. Other ideas for gaining experience can be found on the NHS careers website.
Paediatric nursing career pathways and progression opportunities
Paediatric nursing offers so many opportunities to develop your career. You can specialise in a particular area, such as neonatal nursing, oncology, craniofacial surgery or intensive care. Or you can choose to progress into a management and leadership role, which can include becoming a ward manager, team leader, matron or a director of nursing.
Some children’s nurses also train as health visitors, school nurses, or practice nurses in a GP surgery. You can also train further to qualify as a nurse consultant.
Paediatric nurse opportunities at Thornbury
As a paediatric nurse with Thornbury, you can work flexibly and earn excellent rates of pay, along with having the opportunity to broaden your skills and develop your career.
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