If you want to work in an environment that's interesting, challenging and rewarding, a career in nursing or midwifery has plenty to offer. Nurses work in every health care setting, from emergency departments to patients' and clients' homes and with people of all ages and backgrounds. There are also many opportunities for midwives to work on antenatal, labour and postnatal wards and neonatal units as well as in the community, providing services in women's homes, local clinics, midwifery-led birth centres and GP surgeries.
As a nurse or midwife, the impact you have on other people's health and wellbeing is huge. So, if you're caring, compassionate and have a commitment to helping people, you'll find a role that suits you. There are few professions that offer so much in terms of job satisfaction and support, while giving you the chance to enhance people's lives during their times of need.
Depending on training and experience there are a range of opportunities for you to progress your career to manage wards, departments and teams and/or work in specialist, advanced and consultant level roles if desired.
There are many different areas to work in within a range of settings including hospital, community, primary care and the independent sector. Examples include:
Adult nurses care for adult patients and clients who are suffering from a variety of health conditions, ranging from minor ailments and injuries, to acute and long-term illnesses and diseases. They also promote good health and well-being through education and clinics on certain topics such as diabetes and asthma. Adult nurses work mainly in hospitals and the community, are attached to a health centre or general practice and in residential homes, specialist units, schools and hospices. Many adult nurses also work with patients and clients in their own homes.
Neonatal nurses are registered nurses who specialise in working with new-born babies who are born premature or are suffering from health problems such as birth defects, infections, or heart deformities. The neonatal period is considered to be the first 28 days of an infant’s life, but neonatal nurses may work with babies for much longer. Neonatal nurses work either within specialist neonatal units (within maternity or children's hospitals) or in the community. Nursing care ranges from intensive care of critically ill neonates to monitoring babies who are on the mend.
Theatre nurses work with patients and clients of all ages, from newborn babies to older people. They work primarily within hospital operating theatres and anaesthetic/recovery areas providing specialist care to patients and clients and support to the rest of the perioperative team at different stages of surgery and the recovery phase.
Midwives play a vital role in preparing women for the delivery of their new baby and during all stages of pregnancy, labour and the early postnatal period. More midwives now work in the community, providing services in women's homes, local clinics, children's centres and GP surgeries. Midwifery led units offer care to women with straightforward pregnancies in which the midwives are the professional responsible for care.
As people live longer those with complex and intensive health needs are increasing. Nurses have a vital role to play in caring for older people who may have arthritis, osteoporosis, sensory issues and/or dementia. Nurses use their clinical judgement to enable older people to improve, maintain, or recover health, to cope with health problems, and to achieve the best possible quality of life, whatever their disease or disability, until death. Nursing care of the older person may be provided in the patient or client’s own home, in hospital, hospice or in a residential or nursing home.
A children's nurse provides care for children and young people, under the age of 18, with a range of conditions often linked to acute or long-term health problems. Children's nursing takes place in hospitals and the community including day care centres, child health clinics and in the child's own home. Children’s nurses can also specialise in an area such as child protection, health visiting, school nursing, cancer care or neonatal nursing.
Mental health nurses work with people suffering from a wide range of mental health conditions and their family and carers. Mental health nurses often work in multi-disciplinary teams, liaising with GPs, psychiatrists, psychologists, occupational therapists, social workers and other health professionals and support staff. A mental health nurse may specialise in working with children or older people, or in a specific area, such as, addictions or eating disorders. They ususally work in a variety of settings including the patient’s own homes, community, acute hospital/ out-patient departments, GP practices, residential homes or prisons.
Emergency nurses care for patients in the emergency or critical phase of their illness, trauma or injury. Emergency nurses are required to work in fast-paced and often stressful environments. In response to the increasing demands upon Emergency Departments and supported by changes within the scope of professional practice of the qualified nurse, Emergency nurses have expanded their role within the multidisciplinary team with Emergency Nurse Practitioners working at an advanced level of practice.
Learning disability nurses provide specialist healthcare to children and adults with a range of learning disabilities and also provide support for their family and carers. They help patients and clients to maintain their health and wellbeing and to live their lives as fully and independently as possible. Learning disability nurses are mainly based in community or supported living settings and the roles can be very varied. Working with people who have a learning disability can be demanding as progress can be slow, but it is very satisfying when someone has learned a new skill or can demonstrate new confidence thanks to the nurses’ support.
Health visitors are best placed to help families and young children. Health visitors are registered nurses or midwives who have undertaken further post-registration training. They work in the community to promote good health and prevent illness. Working as a health visitor may also include tackling the impact of social inequality on health and working closely with at-risk or deprived groups. Health visitors will usually have completed or be working towards the NMC Specialist Community Public Health Nurse/ Health Visitor (SCPHN) qualification.
District nurses visit people in their own homes or in residential care homes, providing increasingly complex care for patients and supporting family members. They have an important teaching and support role, working with patients to enable them to care for themselves or with family members teaching them how to give care to their relatives. District nurses also play a vital role in keeping hospital admissions and readmissions to a minimum and ensuring that patients can return to their own homes as soon as possible.
School nurses are qualified nurses or midwives with specialist education in community health and the health needs of school-aged children and young people. They work in the community to promote good health and prevent illness. They provide a variety of services such as providing health education within schools, carry out developmental screening, undertake health interviews and deliver immunisation programmes. Working as a school nurse may also include dealing with the impact of social inequality on health and working closely with at-risk or deprived groups. School nurses will usually have completed or be working towards the NMC Specialist Community Public Health Nurse / School Nursing (SCPHN) qualification.
Practice nurses are employed by primary care/GP practices and work as a valuable member of a multi-disciplinary team, usually based in local health centres. The primary care team is expected to deliver an ever increasing and often complex range of services to meet the needs of the practice population. This offers exciting career opportunities for practice nurses, and with experience and additional qualifications you could progress to nurse practitioner level, which would involve managing your own caseload of patients and clients.
Occupational health nurses are registered nurses who specialise in caring for the health and wellbeing of people at work. They also work with employers to develop safe working policies and procedures. The specialist occupational health nurse will have undertaken an additional period of formal study in occupational health, leading to the NMC Specialist Community Public Health Nurse/ Occupational Health Nursing (SCPHN) qualification.
There are also opportunities for nurses and midwives to work in other areas including: