Children's nursing is a rewarding but demanding career. You'll need to show empathy and sensitivity and have excellent communication skills to succeed
Children's nurses, also known as paediatric nurses, work with children of all ages suffering from many different conditions. They play a key role in assessing the nursing needs of the child, taking into account their medical, social, cultural and family circumstances.
Being able to communicate appropriately with children and their parents or carers is a key part of the job. If working with young children, you will also need to interpret the child's behaviour or reactions to assess them fully, as they won't be able to explain how they're feeling.
You can deliver care in a variety of settings, such as hospitals, homes and in the community and will be part of a team made up of doctors, healthcare assistants, play staff, psychologists and social workers.
Typical work activities vary according to the role, but may include:
More senior roles may include:
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 patterns typically include 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. Freelance and agency nursing is a possibility.
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:
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.
You may be able to get accreditation of prior learning (APL) 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. Up to 50% of the course can be accredited in this way but you should check with the individual institution. Details of all approved programmes can be found at NMC Approved Programmes.
The NMC states that all nurses must meet their requirements of good health and good character. This doesn't mean you can't have a disability or health condition, just that you must be able to carry out safe and effective practice without supervision. You'll also need to declare any criminal convictions, charges or cautions but a criminal record wouldn't necessarily stop you from working in the NHS.
The NHS provides funding to cover tuition fees for students who are UK residents. Contact your chosen institution to find out if your course is eligible for funding. You may also be entitled to a bursary to help with living costs. More information can be found at NHS Student Bursaries.
For bursary information if you are attending courses in Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland see:
You will need to show:
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 children's nurses work in NHS hospitals. Others are employed in:
The majority of 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. As in other branches of nursing, care is becoming more community based.
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.
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:
CPD participatory learning must involve interaction with at least one other professional and can include attending conferences, workshops or relevant training courses and events. Find out more at NMC Revalidation.
It's possible 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 development is structured and with experience, there are opportunities to specialise in a range of hospital and community areas. These can include:
As you become more senior, you can expect to have less hands-on nursing responsibility. You could progress to 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.
You could also work towards becoming a nurse consultant where you'd spend 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 and information can be found at Nursing & Midwifery Council: Working Outside the UK.