Paediatric nurses work with children of all ages suffering from many different conditions. They play a key role in assessing children's nursing needs, taking into account their medical, social, cultural and family circumstances. Paediatric nurses then plan and deliver care in a variety of settings, such as hospitals, homes and in the community, as well as during transfers between these settings.
Paediatric nurses care for and support children and young people and work alongside their families in conjunction with other healthcare professionals.
Paediatric nurses must understand the particular needs of children and how these change through each developmental stage. Being able to communicate appropriately with children and their parents or guardians is a key part of the job, as is working in partnership with other healthcare professionals to ensure continuity of care.
Typical work activities vary according to the role, but may include:
- assessing, observing and reporting on the condition of patients;
- preparing patients for operations and procedures;
- recording pulse, temperature and respiration and keeping accurate records of these observations;
- setting up drips and blood transfusions;
- maintaining and checking intravenous infusions;
- administering drugs and injections;
- assisting with tests and evaluations;
- responding quickly to emergencies;
- explaining treatment and procedures to enable parents/guardians to consent to treatment;
- supporting, advising and educating patients and close relatives;
- engaging in and promoting multidisciplinary teamwork, including working alongside specialist doctors and nurses, health visitors, social workers, radiographers and physiotherapists;
- observing strict hygiene and safety rules and ensuring that visitors also observe any rules on the ward or unit;
- writing reports and updating records before completing a shift.
More senior roles may include:
- teaching skills to student nurses, doctors and other healthcare professionals;
- organising staff and workload to ensure shift cover, possibly across more than one ward.
- The National Health Service (NHS) pay structure, called Agenda for Change, has clearly defined pay bands for nurses. Pay for newly qualified nurses starts at £21,388 (Band 5).
- The range of typical salaries at senior level/with experience varies greatly, depending upon the skills you acquire and the responsibilities of your job. Most experienced nurses work in Band 6 or 7, with salaries ranging from £25,783 to £40,558.
- 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. The post of nurse consultant has a starting salary of £39,239, rising to £67,805 (Band 8a-c).
Private nursing offers a wide range of salaries, and employment can be found in settings such as private hospitals, nursing homes and in patients' own homes.
Inocme figures are intended as a guide only.
Working patterns typically include regular unsocial hours, but there may be scope for working more regular hours depending on your role.
Part-time, term-time and job-share arrangements have become more common and career breaks can often be taken.
What to expect
- Most work takes place in a hospital (on specialist wards or in units) or in home or community settings. Tasks may involve escorting children between hospital departments or to other hospitals, for example when conducting retrieval or transfer work.
- Opportunities exist in all major towns and cities, but may be more limited in very rural areas. Some hospitals have specialist units or centres of clinical excellence and jobs in these establishments may be specific, to some extent, to the specialist care provided.
- Freelance and agency nursing is a possibility.
- Nursing can be physically and emotionally demanding and requires the ability to manage stress and help others to manage their own feelings.
- A uniform and any necessary protective clothing are provided.
- There may be opportunities to travel overseas for conferences, depending on your job and your employer.
Nurses must have a degree in pre-registration nursing. This allows you to register with the Nursing & Midwifery Council (NMC) and practise as a nurse. The nursing diploma is no longer available.
Pre-registration degrees are offered in four branches:
- children (paediatric);
- learning disability;
- mental health.
Usually, you will need to decide which of the four branches of nursing you wish to train for before applying for a programme. Check with individual course providers for details.
Full-time programmes generally last three or four years and include 50% theory and 50% practice. Time is split between the university and practical placements. Although some aspects of training are common to all branches of nursing, clinical placements are related to your chosen branch of nursing.
Part-time pre-registration nursing programmes are provided by some universities and usually last five or six years. These programmes are available to staff working in the NHS - usually as an assistant or an associate practitioner with qualifications up to NVQ level 3 (or equivalent). You would be employed by the NHS and allowed time off to attend university on a part-time basis.
Graduates with a relevant degree, for example a health-related, biology-based or psychology degree, may be eligible to take an accelerated programme, allowing them to complete the degree in a shorter time - up to one year shorter. Accelerated programmes are approved to run at a number of universities. Check the Health Careers Course Finder for a list.
Entry without a degree is possible at the level of healthcare assistant or as an apprentice. With experience, and if you have the appropriate qualifications, you may be able to progress to apply for a place on a degree course.
Applications for degree courses in England, Scotland and Wales are made through the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS). In Northern Ireland, all applications for nursing education should be made directly to institutions. For a list of institutions, see the Northern Ireland Practice & Education Council for Nursing & Midwifery.
Entry criteria are set by individual universities and the minimum qualifications are usually five GCSEs at grade C or above (typically including English language or literature and a science subject) and at least two A-levels/Highers or equivalent.
Acceptance on a course is subject to satisfactory health clearance and Disclosure and Barring Service checks. Cases are considered on an individual basis and you will not necessarily be barred from working in the NHS if you have a criminal conviction.
Further advice can be obtained directly from institutions or from the Health Careers website or helpline.
Tuition fees are paid for eligible students on approved courses. NHS student bursaries may also be available to help with living expenses. For details, see:
For details of any possible financial support in Northern Ireland, contact the Department for Employment and Learning in Northern Ireland (DELNI).
You must register with the NMC within five years of your course completion date or you won't be able to register as a nurse. (This is particularly important if you are dual qualified as, for example, a nurse and social worker.)
You will need to show:
- respect, empathy and sensitivity;
- communication skills, particularly listening skills.
- teamworking skills, especially for hospital-based work;
- the ability to work independently, especially for community-based work;
- observational skills;
- problem-solving skills;
- the ability to work in a fast-paced environment;
- organisational skills and the ability to manage your time and workload effectively;
- emotional resilience and stamina;
Although not essential, pre-entry experience is valuable as it provides 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 of care work or other work with children is also useful.
Many paediatric nurses work in NHS hospitals. Others are employed in:
- general practice (GP) practices, 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.
The majority of sick children are cared for at home by their families with the support of a community nursing team. A number of paediatric nurses are based totally in the community and some have a particular specialism, such as cystic fibrosis, diabetes or asthma. As in other branches of nursing, care is becoming more community based.
Look for job vacancies at:
- NHS Jobs
- NHS Scotland Recruitment
- RCN Bulletin Jobs
- Nursing Times
- Health and Social Care in Northern Ireland - links to Northern Ireland Health Service vacancy websites.
- the HEALTH job
- Staff Nurse
- National and local press.
- Medical charities and private healthcare companies.
- Job fairs run by local NHS trusts.
Recruitment agencies regularly handle vacancies.
Once qualified and registered with the Nursing & Midwifery Council (NMC), continuing professional development (CPD) for nurses is a requirement of the profession. It is possible to take a variety of 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.
Nurses need to renew their registration with the NMC every three years. To do this, you must declare that you have completed 450 hours of registered practice and 35 hours of CPD in the previous three years. The registered practice can be in administrative, supervisory, teaching, research or managerial roles as well as providing direct patient care.
Given the demands and responsibilities of the profession, personal career development within the NHS is set to the pace and circumstances of each individual.
Career development is structured and, after qualification and with experience, there are opportunities to specialise in a wide range of hospital and community areas. As a children's nurse you could specialise in a particular area of paediatrics, such as neonatal intensive care, paediatric oncology, burns and plastics, cancer care, child protection, ambulatory care, asthma, orthopaedics, diabetes, counselling, continuing care for children with special needs and work within young people's units.
As with other branches of nursing, there are opportunities to progress your career in management, teaching, research or in a community-based role, for instance as a school nurse or health visitor.
Many changes are taking place within National Health Service (NHS) and new opportunities are arising. The new locally commissioned NHS 111 telephone service (available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year) offers flexible opportunities outside hospital settings to nurses with post-registration experience.
Nurse consultant posts have been established across a wide range of services. Nurse consultants spend much of their time working directly with patients, but they are also responsible for developing personal practice, are involved in research, and contribute to the education, training and development of other nurses. They specialise in a particular area and are among the highest paid NHS nurses.
All nurses have a managerial element to their work, but some career paths are more management-orientated than others. As you become more senior, you can expect to have less hands-on nursing responsibility. You can move on to become a senior staff nurse, then ward sister or charge nurse. Management of a ward may lead to managing a clinical unit and, in the future, to executive posts within a trust.
Outside the NHS, opportunities for experienced practitioners can be found in private healthcare organisations, social services, voluntary organisations, charities such as Macmillan Cancer Support, teaching and assessment, and in health services overseas, in both paid and voluntary capacities. Nursing qualifications are transferable to other health services overseas. Registration with the Nursing & Midwifery Council (NMC) facilitates this and information is available to member from the Royal College of Nursing (RCN).