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Children's nurses plan and provide holistic nursing care to children affected by a wide variety of illnesses and medical conditions.

The work can be physically and emotionally demanding, so resilience and stamina are essential requirements.

What does a children's nurse do? Typical employers | Qualifications and training | Key skills

Children's nurses work as part of a multidisciplinary team of professional and medical staff that includes doctors, health visitors, healthcare assistants, hospital play staff, social workers and psychologists. They are sometimes known as paediatric nurses. Typical responsibilities include:

  • assessing and planning nursing care requirements
  • providing care before and after operations
  • monitoring and administering medication, injections and intravenous infusions
  • treating wounds
  • taking samples from patients and monitoring their pulse, temperature and blood pressure
  • checking on the condition of patients
  • dealing with emergencies
  • supervising junior staff
  • organising workloads
  • tutoring student nurses
  • obtaining parental consent for treatment
  • writing records
  • providing information, emotional support and reassurance to patients and relatives

24-hour shift work is usually a standard requirement of the job. As well as in hospitals, it’s likely that you will be required to work in different settings – such as homes and clinics.

Typical employers

Children's nurses are employed by hospitals, NHS trusts, nursing agencies, health centres, charities/voluntary organisations, schools, private health care organisations, GP practices and residential homes.

When searching for vacancies online, NHS jobs, NHS recruitment Scotland and Nursing Times are good places to look.

Qualifications and training required

The main route into qualifying as a nurse is to take a nursing degree. Most are three years long, with the exception of dual field degrees and nursing degrees in Scotland. Nursing degree courses provide a mix of formal teaching and practical experience. If you already have a degree, a postgraduate qualification may be an option.

You apply for full-time undergraduate nursing degrees through UCAS. Application criteria vary but you are likely to need at least 2 (more often 3) A levels or equivalent qualifications, plus a minimum of 5 GCSEs at grade 4 (or C) including English, maths and a science.

Graduates in a relevant subject such as life, health, biological or social sciences can qualify via a shortened two-year postgraduate course. The recognition process for your first degree is known as APEL (accreditation of prior experiential learning). You can find out more about accelerated nursing courses for graduates from UCAS and the NHS health careers website. You will need to check directly with institutions to find out if your degree course is acceptable for entry.

Nursing degree apprenticeships are now offered by a small number of NHS organisations. They are similar to nursing degrees in that they involve a mix of academic study and placements, but they are employer-led rather than being led by universities. Nursing degree apprentices are released by their employers to undertake academic study at degree level on a part-time basis, and also train through a series of practice placements. Level 3 qualifications (that is, A level or equivalent) are usually required, as the apprenticeship is at degree level.

You can look for nursing degree apprenticeships on the NHS jobs website or the government's apprenticeship search. Applicants who have completed a nursing associate apprenticeship will be able to finish a nursing degree apprenticeship in a shorter period of time than other candidates, as the nursing associate apprenticeship will count towards it.

The nursing associate apprenticeship is a training programme that involves academic learning one day a week and work-based learning in a variety of settings for the rest of the week. You need to have GSCEs in maths and English at grade 9 to 4 (A to C) or equivalent to apply. More information about nursing associate apprenticeships is available from the NHS health careers website.

All nurses working in the UK must be registered with the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC). When students complete their nursing degrees, their universities pass on their details to the NMC, which then gets in touch to let them know how to create an online account and apply for registration. Nurses are required to renew their registration and pay the registration fee each year, and must revalidate their registration every three years. In order to revalidate registration, nurses must have completed a minimum of 35 hours continuing professional development (CPD) and 450 hours registered practice over three years.

Previous relevant experience is not essential, but any gained caring for or working with people (particularly children) can be helpful.

Key skills for children's nurses

Children do not necessarily have a well-developed ability to express how they are feeling, so it is essential for children's nurses to have particularly acute powers of observation and to be highly responsive to any signs that a child's health has taken a turn for the worse. Children's nurses also need excellent, sensitive communication skills to enable them to care for children in situations that may be stressful and distressing, to support children and their families and carers and provide information and advice. They must be able to assess patients and use sound judgement to decide on the best course of action.

All candidates must be of good health and fitness, with excellent teamwork and verbal and written communication skills. The work can be physically and emotionally demanding, so resilience and stamina are essential requirements. Children's nurses also need to be organised, flexible and able to prioritise effectively.

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In Partnership

This content has been written or sourced by AGCAS, the Association of Graduate Careers Advisory Services, and edited by TARGETjobs as part of a content partnership. AGCAS provides impartial information and guidance resources for higher education student career development and graduate employment professionals.

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