Adult nurse: job description

Adult nurse: job description

Adult nurses plan and provide nursing care to adults suffering from a wide variety of medical conditions and illnesses, supporting their treatment, recovery and well-being.
Previous care work is not essential, but demonstrates commitment and is a useful opportunity to experience the role.

What does an adult nurse do? Typical employers | Qualifications and training | Key skills

Adult nurses are the main point of contact for adult patients and their families, and play a vital role in teams of professional and medical staff. They work with doctors, social workers and therapists, and attend to a patient's comfort and emotional well-being as well as their medical needs. Typical duties of the job include:

  • assessing and planning nursing care requirements
  • writing care plans and records
  • providing pre and post operation care
  • monitoring a patient's condition
  • carrying out routine investigations and care procedures, such as administering medication, injections and intravenous infusions, and taking patient samples, pulses, temperatures and blood pressures
  • dealing with emergencies
  • supervising junior staff
  • organising workloads
  • tutoring student nurses
  • providing advice and promoting good health
  • providing information, emotional support and reassurance to patients and relatives

Shiftwork to provide 24-hour care is a common requirement. Some travel may be necessary between hospitals or trusts' different units. However, many nurses are increasingly based in the community with a focus on preventative treatment in order to avoid any unnecessary stress for the patient.

Opportunities exist for working abroad and taking career breaks. These may be used to contribute to the continuing professional development (CPD) which is a requirement of registration with the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC).

Vacancies appear online, in newspapers, NHS Trusts' jobs lists and publications such as Nursing Times and Nursing Standard.

Typical employers of adult nurses

  • Hospitals
  • NHS Trusts
  • Residential homes
  • Agencies
  • Health centres
  • Prisons
  • Charities
  • Hospices
  • Schools
  • The armed forces
  • Private companies
  • GP practices
  • Day centres

Qualifications and training required

It is only possible to become a nurse with a relevant degree. Nurses are required to complete a three or four-year degree in nursing, with their time divided between formal teaching and practical experience. Graduates in a relevant subject such as life, health, biological or social sciences can qualify via a shortened two-year postgraduate diploma course. Nurse First, a pilot two-year fast-track programme for graduates who want to enter nursing, has recently been launched by NHS England, and combines hands-on experience and training with an educational course. The scheme's initial focus is training mental health and learning disability nurses.

Previous care work is not essential, but demonstrates commitment and is a useful opportunity to experience the role.

All nurses working in the UK must be registered with the NMC. Most higher education institutions pass the details of nursing students onto the NMC in the year they are to graduate, and students are then sent a form, which they must complete and return with a registration fee. Registration must be completed within five years of completing a nursing course. In order to maintain registration, nurses must complete a minimum of 40 hours' learning activity (CPD) and 450 hours registered practice over three years, although more is common. Many nurses choose to specialise in a particular clinical field, such as public health, cancer care or theatre and recovery.

Key skills for adult nurses

Good interpersonal skills are vital for nurses, who have to communicate with numerous other medical and care professionals as well as being a key source of information and emotional support for patients. Other valuable attributes are:

  • verbal/written communication skills
  • empathy and sensitivity to patients' needs and concerns
  • observation skills
  • willingness to be flexible
  • teamwork skills
  • an ability to deal with 'emotionally charged' situations
  • organisational skills
  • managerial and leadership skills
  • attention to detail
  • good health and fitness
  • good hygiene

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