Adult Nurse

The Job and What's Involved

Adult nurses assess, plan and provide care to patients (aged 18 and over) who are ill, injured or have physical disabilities.

They observe and evaluate patients' progress and adapt the care they give in consultation with doctors. They may also counsel patients and their relatives.

As an adult nurse, the practical care you give could include:

  • Checking temperatures
  • Measuring blood pressure and respiration rates
  • Helping doctors with physical examinations
  • Giving drugs and injections
  • Cleaning and dressing wounds
  • Administering blood transfusions and drips
  • Using hi-tech medical equipment

You could specialise in an area such as accident and emergency, cardiac rehabilitation, outpatients, neonatal nursing, and operating theatre work.

As well as hospitals, you could also work in the community, in 'walk-in' health centres, clinics or prisons.

You would usually work 37.5 hours a week, which can include evenings, weekends, night shifts and bank holidays. Many hospitals offer flexible hours or part-time work. Extra hours may also be available.

You could work in a variety of settings including hospital wards, hospices, schools, private hospitals, and in the community visiting patients at home.

Nurses can earn between £20,700 and £26,800 a year.
Nurse team leaders and managers can earn around £33,000 to £39,300. Nurse consultants can earn up to £65,600.

Extra allowances may be paid to those living in or around London.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

There are around 670,000 nurses in the UK.

You will find most jobs in the NHS, but you could also work with private hospitals and nursing homes, schools and colleges, HM Forces, the prison service and in industry.

Vacancies are advertised in local newspapers, on the jobs bulletins and websites of NHS trusts and charities, in specialist magazines like Nursing Times, and at

Education and Training

To work as an adult nurse, you need a Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) approved degree or Diploma of Higher Education in Nursing (adult branch).

To get on to an approved course, you need:

  • Proof of your English and maths skills, good health and good character.
  • Evidence of recent successful study experience (especially if you have been out of education for a number of years).
  • Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) clearance.

Course providers can also set their own academic entry requirements, which can include:

Nursing diploma – five GCSE's (A-C) preferably in English, maths and/or a science-based subject.

Nursing degree – the same GCSE's as the diploma, plus two or three A levels, possibly including a biological science.

Some institutions offer Advanced Diplomas in Adult Nursing. This qualification and the entry requirements for it lie between diploma and degree level.

Check with universities for exact entry details because alternative qualifications, such as an Access to Higher Education course, may also be accepted. For a list of degree and diploma course providers and application advice, visit the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) website.

The NMC are raising the minimum level of pre-registration nurse education from diploma to degree. The first degree programmes following the new standards are expected to begin September 2011. The final opportunity to start the nursing diploma will be Spring 2013. From September 2013, students will ONLY be able to qualify as a nurse by studying for a degree.

Funding – nursing diploma and degree courses attract non-repayable bursaries to cover living expenses. Bursaries for diploma courses are non-income-assessed (non-means tested). However, NHS bursaries for the degree are subject to a full income-assessment. Course fees are usually paid. For more information on NHS student bursaries, see the NHS Business Services Authority website.

You may have an advantage when applying for a course, if you also have some relevant paid or voluntary experience. Contact the voluntary services coordinator or manager at your local NHS Trust for further advice.

Alternative entry routes

You may be able to get into this job through an Apprenticeship scheme. The range of Apprenticeships available in your area will depend on the local jobs market and the types of skills employers need from their workers. To find out more about Apprenticeships, visit the Apprenticeships website.

Apprenticeships and Advanced Apprenticeships provide structured training with an employer. As an apprentice you must be paid at least £95 per week; you may well be paid more. A recent survey found that the average wage for apprentices was £170 a week. Your pay will depend on the sector in which you work, your age, the area where you live and the stage at which you have arrived in the Apprenticeship.

Entry to Employment (e2e) can help to prepare those who are not yet ready for an Apprenticeship. In addition, Young Apprenticeships may be available for 14- to 16-year-olds. More information is available from a Connexions personal adviser or at

There are different arrangements for Apprenticeships in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

For further information visit My World of Work, Careers Wales; and for Northern Ireland contact

You could also contact your local NHS Trust for details of schemes in your area.

If you are a healthcare assistant with an NVQ Level 3 in Health (and support from your employer) you may be able to complete nurse training on a part-time basis by applying for a secondment. You would receive a salary whilst studying and once qualified, you may need to commit to working with the NHS Trust that funded you for a minimum period.

If you have a degree in a subject related to health or nursing, you could qualify by taking an accelerated programme for graduates. You can search for courses on the NHS Careers Course Finder facility.

As a nurse trained outside the UK and EEA, you may need to complete the Overseas Nurses Programme (ONP) before you begin work. Occasionally, EEA trained nurses may also be required to take an aptitude test (or similar) in order to prove professional competence (see the NMC website for details).

A Few More Exams You Might Need

Once you are on a nurse training programme you will divide your time between university and supervised placements in local hospitals and the community. Most courses are full-time and take three years to complete.

During the first year you will follow the Common Foundation Programme, which includes:

An introduction to the four branches of nursing and maternity care.

Developing observational, communication and caring skills.

Studying anatomy, physiology, psychology, sociology, social policy.

Learning core practical caring skills.

For the remaining two years of training, you will specialise in adult nursing and work in relevant clinical placements.

With further study (for example to Masters-level) you may be able to apply for advanced nurse practitioner (ANP) and clinical nurse specialist (CNS) posts. Experience in these roles can lead to a nurse consultant job. Consultants work directly and independently with patients, carry out research and deliver training (you may need to be working towards a PhD in a relevant subject).

Professional registration

As a qualified nurse you must renew your professional registration with the NMC every three years. To re-register you need to have worked a minimum of 450 hours and completed at least 35 hours' professional development every three years. Check with the NMC for details.

Return to practice

If you are a former registered nurse wishing to return to the profession, you can take a return-to-practice course. Contact your local NHS Trust for details.

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Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

An immigration officer needs:

  • Strong communication and listening skills.
  • A genuine desire to help people.
  • A non-judgemental attitude to care.
  • Good teamworking skills and the ability to work on your own initiative.
  • Physical and mental stamina.
  • A mature, compassionate and sensitive manner.
  • Good practical skills.
  • Patience and empathy.
  • The ability to inspire confidence and trust.
  • The ability to remain calm under pressure.
  • Good organisational and time management skills.
  • A flexible approach to work.

Your Long Term Prospects

With experience you could progress to sister, ward manager or team leader with responsibility for running a ward or a team of nurses in the community. You could go on to other management roles, such as a matron or director of nursing.

As a qualified adult nurse, you could train in another branch (child, learning disability or mental health) by completing a 'second registration' course (these take around one year and you will usually need evidence of recent study and financial support from your employer).

Alternatively, you could go on to train as a midwife, neonatal nurse, health visitor, district or practice nurse. You could also find opportunities for self-employment or overseas work.

Get Further Information

Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC),
23 Portland Place, London W1B 1PZ
Tel: 020 7333 9333

Queens University of Belfast, School of Nursing and Midwifery,
Medical Biology Centre, 97 Lisburn Road, Belfast BT9 7BL
Tel: 028 9097 2233

University of Ulster at Jordanstown, School of Nursing,
Shore Road, Newtownabbey, Co Antrim BT37 0QB
Tel: 08700 400 700

Health Learning and Skills Advice Line
Tel: 08000 150850
Website: https://nationalcareersservice

NHS Careers, PO Box 376, Bristol BS99 3EY
Tel: 0345 60 60 655

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