nursing career paths

Nursing Career Paths

Nursing is more than just a job; it is a vocation. Nursing attracts personalities with heart. They are strong of will and steady of hand. In addition, nursing career paths can be linear. While the basic rate of pay for registered ward nurses remains a topic of much debate, there are opportunities to climb the ladder of nursing – whether within the NHS, or by joining the private sector.


Becoming a Nurse

If you wish to become a nurse, you will need a degree. Do not be deterred by this. Eligible candidates can apply for financial aid while studying. In addition, 94% of nursing students find a job within six months of graduation.


The entry requirements of a University that offers nursing degrees vary. Every establishment has its own unique criteria. As a rule, though, expect to be asked for C-grade or above GCSEs in English, maths and science, in addition to two or three A-levels (or Level 3 equivalents).


Depending on what field of nursing you are interested in, at least one of these A-Levels may need to be in a specialist science. If you lack this qualification, some universities will offer a foundation year of study to grant an equivalent qualification.


Specialist Nursing

“Nurse” is not a catch-all, generic job title. There are many types of nursing career paths open to any interested applicant. These are divided into five core categories:


  • Adult Nursing (also known as General Nursing)
  • Children’s Nursing (Paediatrics)
  • Learning Disability Nursing
  • Mental Health Nursing
  • Theatre Nursing (also known as Scrub Nursing/Surgical Nursing)


Other training and specialities, such as midwifery, are also available. Decide which type of nursing appeals to you before studying. Some courses may grant qualification in two of these fields simultaneously.


Can a Healthcare Assistant Become a Nurse?

A healthcare assistant (HCA) is a critical supporting role to the nursing team of any medical facility. An HCA will work alongside nurses and doctors, aiding patients with basic mobility alongside day-to-day essential duties such as changing bedding and recording patient blood pressure and temperature.


An HCA is not a registered nurse but acts as the liaison between patient and clinician. This requires a similar mentality to a nurse, in addition to excellent, compassionate transferable skills. Gaining a role as an HCA can be the first step in the nursing career path toward training to become a qualified ward nurse. The experience gained in this role will stand an applicant in good stead for acceptance into University.


Nursing bands

Once qualified as a nurse, you will be entitled to work at any healthcare facility in the UK. Your qualifications may also permit you to work overseas.


Nursing roles are graded by bands. These bands dictate rates of pay and seniority. This table explains the many and varied roles that a nurse can step into along their nursing career path.


Job TitleBand
Staff Nurse5
Clinical Nurse6
Discharge Co-ordinator6
Junior Sister6
Sister for Practice Development6
Specialist Charge Nurse6
Clinical Lead7
Clinical Nurse Specialist7
Clinical Site Manager7
Critical Care Outreach Nurse7
Research Nurse7
Senior Resuscitation Practitioner7
Sister for Practice Development7
Ward Leader7
Advanced Practitioner8
Clinical Nurse8
Directorate Lead Nurse8
Head of Nursing8
Nurse Consultant8
Specialist Team Lead8


AppLocum has an excellent variety of locum nurse jobs for you to choose from.


Managerial Roles for Nurses

Leadership roles in nursing typically fall into band 8 or above. A nurse in a management role will still be involved with daily healthcare duties, tending to the needs of patients. In addition, these roles involve line management of junior team members, inspiring and training the next generation of nurses, demonstrating best practice and aiding with administrative tasks.


Any nurse will have the opportunity to climb the career ladder into a management role if this is appealing. The nurse in question should discuss this ambition with the leadership team of a healthcare facility. Training, education and assessments can then be arranged. With appropriate skills and commitment, nursing can be both lucrative and rewarding.


Reaching the top of your profession in a managerial role can be a daunting task, particularly with the extra load of essential paperwork. You may find you want to be more hands on in the actual care of patients, rather than an administrator. But never fear, it can be possible to do both.


Whichever role or specialism you decide, you will undoubtedly have one of the most rewarding careers in the world.


Joining an agency

As a locum nurse, if you are part of an agency they can offer advice if you’re looking to progress in your career. One of our practice nurses said “you motivated me so much to apply for my (NMC) pin. You improved my knowledge and skills so much within these two years and I wouldn’t have done it without you.” At AppLocum we want to make sure you find your perfect job.


To discover your next step, check out our daily updated vacancies or contact us.

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