Children's nurses provide care and support to children and young people, and their families and carers

As a children's nurse (or paediatric nurse), you'll play a key role in assessing the nursing needs of a child, taking into account their medical, social, cultural and family circumstances.

Excellent communication skills are vital for this role, and you'll need to show empathy and sensitivity when speaking with children and their parents or carers. If you're working with young children, you'll also need to interpret their behaviour and reactions to assess them fully, as they won't be able to explain how they're feeling.

Children's nursing is carried out in a variety of settings, such as hospitals, homes and in the community, and will be part of a multidisciplinary team with other healthcare professionals.


Depending on the setting, as a children's nurse you'll need to:

  • build trusting relationships with children and young people, while listening to and interpreting their needs and concerns
  • encourage supportive relationships with families and carers of patients and discuss the best way to deliver their care
  • work as part of a multidisciplinary team with other healthcare professionals, ensuring the nursing perspective is heard
  • plan person-centred support for children and young people, in partnership with families and carers
  • work under pressure to respond to emergencies and stressful situations
  • communicate openly and honestly with patients and their families and carers, showing empathy and compassion
  • assist with tests, evaluations and observations
  • have a reassuring manner when administering drugs and injections to children and young people
  • advocate on behalf of patients and their families or carers and educate them about their health, which may include running clinics and education sessions
  • make ethical decisions related to consent and confidentiality
  • accurately update records and reports before completing a shift.

In more senior roles, you may also need to support and mentor student nurses and newly qualified nurses, and in a children's nurse manager role, you may be responsible for aspects of workforce planning and ensuring quality of care.


  • The NHS Agenda for Change pay structure has clearly defined pay bands for nurses. Salaries for newly qualified nurses start at £28,407 (Band 5).
  • As you progress, your salary will vary depending on the skills you acquire and the responsibilities of your job. Most experienced nurses work in Band 6 or 7, with salaries ranging from £35,392 to £50,056.
  • Additional qualifications and experience may enhance salary and promotion prospects. Extra payments may be available for staff working unsocial hours or in high-cost areas. One of the highest-paid positions in nursing is as a nurse consultant where salaries start on Band 8a, which ranges from £50,952 to £57,349.

Private nursing offers a range of salaries, and employment can be found in settings such as private hospitals, nursing homes and in patients' own homes.

Income figures are intended as a guide only.

Working hours

Your standard working hours in the NHS will be 37.5 hours a week. There is the possibility to work some overtime. Shift work is common in hospitals and working patterns typically include unsocial hours. This can mean working nights, early starts, weekends and bank holidays, but there may be scope for working more regular hours depending on your role.

Part-time and term-time working and job-share arrangements have become more common, and career breaks can often be taken. Freelance and agency nursing is a possibility.

What to expect

  • Children's nursing can be physically and emotionally challenging but also incredibly rewarding when you observe the positive impact of your care on patients and their families.
  • You'll need to recognise and manage stressful situations, and compassionately support families and carers of patients to use the services.
  • Opportunities exist in all major towns and cities. Some hospitals have specialist areas where rarer conditions are treated.
  • Most work takes place in a hospital on specialist wards or in community settings. The environment and working conditions vary between hospitals, wards and community.
  • Although hospital working hours are generally on shift patterns, some hospital services such as clinics and outpatients operate regular 9 to 5 hours. Depending on your role, you may work a similar regular shift pattern in community nursing.


To work as a nurse in the UK, you must be registered with the Nursing & Midwifery Council (NMC). You need to have completed an accepted pre-registration nursing programme in order to register, and these are only run at NMC approved educational institutions (AEIs).

Pre-registration degrees are offered in four branches:

  • adult
  • children (paediatric)
  • learning disability
  • mental health.

Half of the programme is based in clinical practice, giving you direct experience of working with patients and families. You could be based within a variety of settings including hospitals, the community, patients' homes and independent organisations. Details of all approved programmes can be found at NMC Approved Programmes.

You may be able to get accreditation of prior experiential learning (APEL) if you have a degree in another health-related subject or other practice-based learning. Relevant subjects include life and medical sciences, social work and psychology. This may shorten courses to two to three years, but you should check with the individual institution.

All pre-registration nursing students can receive funding support of £5,000 per year. A parental support payment of £2,000 per year to help with childcare costs is also available. You don't have to pay it back and are still able to access funding for tuition and maintenance loans from the Student Loans Company. For more information, see Health Careers.

Nursing degree apprenticeships have recently been developed and these offer a more flexible route to becoming a nurse. You'll work for an NHS employer as a nursing degree apprentice and will be released for part-time study at a university. Training will also take place in a range of practice settings.

Degree apprenticeships typically take four years to complete, and the cost will be covered by your employer. You may be able to do it in a shorter length of time if you have APEL.


You will need to show:

  • respect, empathy and compassion when working with patients and their families
  • communication and listening skills, to build trust with patients, their families and carers
  • excellent observational skills and attention to detail to assess children and young people in your care
  • problem-solving skills and sound judgement when deciding on which action to take to best support patients
  • flexibility and adaptability to support a range of patients at one time
  • the ability to work in a fast-paced environment
  • excellent teamwork skills
  • the ability to reflect on your actions as a professional
  • organisational skills, to manage your time and workload effectively
  • emotional resilience and stamina to deal with patients under difficult and complex circumstances.

Work experience

Although not essential, pre-entry experience is valuable as it provides you with an insight into the profession and shows universities and NHS Trusts that you understand what the career involves.

Voluntary work for your local NHS Trust or St John Ambulance is useful, as is experience working as a healthcare assistant. Experience in care work or other work with children is also useful.

For free mentoring resources and experiences designed to support aspiring healthcare and legal professionals - including virtual work experience that is accepted by medical schools, see Medic Mentor.

Find out more about the different kinds of work experience and internships that are available.


Many children's nurses work in NHS hospitals. Other settings where you could find work include:

  • general practices (GPs), as specialists in child health
  • day care centres, child health clinics and school health education units
  • travel companies/holiday resorts
  • nursing agencies
  • private healthcare organisations
  • patients' homes
  • charities and voluntary organisations.

As in other branches of nursing, some of the care is delivered in the community. Depending on the illness, some sick children are cared for at home by their families with the support of a community nursing team. It's possible to be based totally in the community with a specialism such as cystic fibrosis, diabetes or asthma.

Look for job vacancies at:

You could also check the websites of medical charities and private healthcare companies. There are many specialist nursing agencies, such as Pulse, that recruit for both permanent and temporary positions. For a searchable directory of agencies, see the Nursing Agencies List.

Professional development

You must be registered with the NMC in order to practice as a nurse in the UK. This registration has to be renewed every three years and to do this you need to show you've met revalidation requirements within that time. The requirements include:

  • 450 practice hours, which can be made up of providing direct care to patients, managing teams, teaching others or running a care service
  • 35 hours of continuing professional development (CPD), including 20 hours of participatory learning
  • five pieces of practice-related feedback
  • five written reflective accounts
  • reflective discussion with another NMC registrant
  • health and character declaration
  • professional indemnity arrangement.

CPD participatory learning must involve interaction with at least one other professional (in either a physical or virtual environment) and can include attending conferences, workshops or relevant training courses and events. Find out more at NMC Revalidation.

It's possible for you to take courses of differing lengths in a number of specialist areas. Some in-service training programmes last for up to a year. For more details, see Royal College of Nursing - Professional Development.

Career prospects

Career development is structured and with experience you could progress through roles such as senior staff nurse (or charge nurse), ward sister and senior ward manager. Management of a ward may lead on to managing a clinical unit and, in the future, to executive posts within a trust. As you become more senior, you can expect to have less hands-on nursing responsibility.

There are opportunities to specialise in a range of hospital and community areas, which can include:

  • neonatal intensive care
  • paediatric oncology
  • burns and plastics
  • child protection
  • ambulatory care
  • asthma
  • orthopaedics
  • diabetes
  • counselling
  • continuing care for children with special needs
  • work within young people's units.

You could also work towards becoming a nurse consultant where you'd spend at least half of your time working directly with patients. The remaining time would be spent on developing personal practice, being involved in research and contributing to the education, training and development of other nurses.

As with other branches of nursing, there are opportunities to progress your career in teaching, research or in a community-based role, for instance as a school nurse or health visitor.

Outside the NHS, you could work in private healthcare, social services, voluntary organisations, charities or in health services overseas. Nursing qualifications are usually transferable abroad - more information can be found about this at Nursing & Midwifery Council: Working Outside the UK.

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