Job descriptions and industry overviews

Nurse: job description

21 Jun 2023, 15:39

Nurses plan and provide medical and nursing care to patients in hospital, at home or in other settings.

The picture shows a nurse handling a vial of medicine

A caring and compassionate nature, and the ability to deal with emotionally charged and pressured situations are important traits in a nurse.

Nurses work as part of a team of professional and medical staff that includes doctors, social workers and therapists. Much of nurses’ time is spent with patients, monitoring them, planning and delivering care, and advising them on their health. Shift work is common in nursing, as is a busy workload.

Typical duties include:

  • Assessing patients and gaining their trust.
  • Planning and delivering patients’ care.
  • Monitoring patients’ progress.
  • Taking samples, pulses, temperatures and blood pressures.
  • Monitoring and administering medication.
  • Writing records.
  • Supervising junior staff.
  • Organising workloads.
  • Providing emotional support to patients and relatives.
  • Tutoring student nurses.
  • Advising patients and relatives on health-related issues.

You‘re likely to work shifts of up to 12 hours. However, in the NHS, if you work unsocial hours (weekends, weekdays 8.00 pm–6.00 am, and public holidays) you’ll be paid extra for these.

Graduate nurse salaries

Newly qualified nurses in the NHS in England earn around £25,000, according to If you live in an area with a high cost of living (such as London), you’re eligible for a supplementary payment to cover the extra costs.

Nurses at the same level in Scotland earn slightly more than those in England thanks to separate pay agreements.

Typical employers of nurses

  • Hospitals (NHS and private).
  • NHS trusts
  • Residential homes.
  • Hospices.
  • Prisons.
  • Nursing agencies.
  • Health centres.
  • Schools.
  • Companies.
  • GP practices.

Vacancies are advertised on NHS jobs website and specialist sites such as Nursing Standard. Individual health trusts will also advertise jobs.

Qualifications and training required to become a nurse

The main route into qualifying as a nurse is to take a nursing degree in one of the four nursing specialisms: adult nursing, children's nursing, learning disability nursing or mental health nursing. Some degree courses cover two of these fields, and are known as 'dual field' degrees.

Most nursing degree courses 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 gained via placements.

You apply for full-time undergraduate nursing degrees through UCAS. Application criteria vary but you’re likely to need at least two A levels or equivalent qualifications. One of these should be in science subject. You’ll also need GCSEs of at least a 4/C grade (or equivalent) in maths, English and a science.

If you already have a degree in a science or health-related subject, you can become a nurse via a two-year postgraduate course. The recognition process for your first degree is known as APEL (accreditation of prior experiential learning). You will need to check directly with institutions to find out if your degree course is acceptable for entry). Find out more about accelerated nursing courses for graduates from UCAS and the NHS health careers website.

If you don’t have a degree but are working in a healthcare-related role (or would like to), you could take a nursing degree apprenticeship. These are similar to nursing degrees in that they involve a mix of academic study and placements, but they’re employer-led rather than being led by universities. Alongside working in a paid healthcare role, you study part time (and your employer will release you from work to enable you to do this) and complete a series of placements.

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.

All nurses working in the UK must be registered with the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) and revalidate their registration every three years. To do this, you need to complete at least 35 hours of continuing professional development and 450 hours’ registered practice over three years.

Key skills for nurses

  • Excellent people skills, including the ability to listen.
  • The ability to use initiative and solve problems.
  • Attention to detail.
  • The ability to deal with emotionally charged and pressured situations.
  • Excellent verbal and written communication skills.
  • IT skills and the ability to keep patient record up to date.

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