As a children’s nurse, you need to understand how healthy children and young people develop towards adulthood. The role requires developing knowledge and skills for maximising physical and mental wellbeing through promoting health in infancy, childhood and adolescence. Children's nurses also need the ability to minimise the impact of living with long-term conditions and disabilities including illness and hospital admission. This involves working in partnership with the child's or young person’s family and carers such as parents and siblings or whoever cares for the child or young person at home. Nursing a child and young person is not just caring for a smaller adult. It is a complex, dynamic and responsible role which involves a high level of skill, resilience and commitment during an important developmental period of a child and young person’s life.
The children's nurse is in a unique and privileged position to make a difference to the present and future lives of children, young people and their families when they may be at their most vulnerable.
When you graduate from our BSc Child Nursing programme at UEA, you will be equipped with the clinical knowledge and skills required to continue your professional development further and excel as a children’s nurse. You will also have graduated from one of the best schools of health in the UK, and be ready to embark upon an exciting career.
Following your graduation, you will need to register with your professional body, the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) and gain clearance from the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS). Once registered, you will be eligible to work as a children’s nurse in the UK and overseas.
Excellent communication skills are key. While most young people and adults can express what they feel and need a child or a young person with a learning disability may not be able to verbally communicate so the nurse needs to interpret their behaviour and reactions to meet their needs. Children’s nurses also need to be able to quickly identify when a child becomes unwell.
Health challenges can have an effect on a child or young person’s development and it’s vital to work closely with their family, carers, teachers and with other healthcare professionals to ensure that they have the best opportunity to meet their goals and aspirations in the future.
Children’s nurses treat the best interests of children and young people as their first priority in all that they do. They work in partnership with children, young people, and their families to plan their care, including negotiating where and by whom the care will be delivered.
Your day will be very varied but your duties of care will generally include:
- Promoting good physical and mental health and wellbeing.
- Protecting children and young people from harm.
- Working with other health professionals to assess the physical and mental wellbeing needs of children and young people, including those with long-term conditions and disabilities, and those who have minor illnesses, are seriously unwell or have been injured.
- Planning care based on individual needs and implementing that care in conjunction with a child and young person’s family and other professionals in the community as required.
- Working closely with a child's family to ensure that the effects on the child and family of long-term conditions, disabilities, illness and hospitalisation are kept to a minimum.
- Teaching the child and family the knowledge and skills they need to continue treatment when they return home from hospital or long-term care.
- Giving the professionals from a child and young person’s educational setting the knowledge and skills they need to continue management at school if required.
TOP TIP: As no two days are the same, and you never know what the day ahead will hold, working with children, young people and their families is an immensely rewarding job.
With experience, employment opportunities are plentiful and your pay and responsibility will depend upon experience and any specialist skills you may acquire. You may choose to specialise in areas such as pain management, cancer care, school nursing, child protection or neonatal nursing. Consultants work directly and independently with patients, carry out research and develop and deliver training.
You could also develop your leadership and management skills and become a ward manager or team leader.
With further training, it is possible to become an advanced nurse practitioner (ANP), clinical nurse specialist (CNS) or nurse consultant where you’ll work directly and independently with patients.
You could train as a health visitor, neonatal or school nurse. There are also opportunities in research, education and training.
For example, registered children's nurses can take part in or lead research aimed at improving patient care outcomes and patient safety.
You could work as a clinical educator or nurse lecturer. Teaching is a rich and rewarding pursuit for nurses wanting to share their clinical expertise with those entering the profession or nurses returning to practice with advanced preparation.
Registered nurses are required to maintain a portfolio to demonstrate that they are keeping their skills and knowledge up to date with annual CPD (continuing professional development).
What would my starting salary be?
Most jobs in the NHS are covered by the Agenda for Change pay scales and as a recently graduated children's nurse you will usually start at Band 5.
As you progress, salaries vary depending on the skills you acquire and the responsibilities of your job. Most experienced nurse’s work in Band 6 or 7.
Additional qualifications and experience may enhance salary and promotion prospects.
Extra payments may be available for staff working antisocial hours or in high-cost areas. One of the highest paid positions in nursing is as a nurse consultant where salaries start on Band 8a.
You should always check with the employer to confirm the pay rate for any post for which you are applying.
What hours would I be working?
Children's nursing is 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and 365 days a year job. As a children's nurse, you will be expected to work an average of 37.5 hours a week on a shift-style rota. This means you will be expected to work days, nights and weekends, including bank holidays, Easter and Christmas.
There may be scope for working more regular hours depending on your role.
Part-time, term-time and job-share arrangements have become more common and career breaks can often be taken. Freelance and agency nursing is a possibility.
Where could I work?
Children’s nursing takes place in hospitals, day care centres, child health clinics and in the child and young person’s home. Like other fields of nursing, care is becoming more community-based.
Many children's nurses work in NHS hospitals.
Career development is structured and with experience, there are opportunities to specialise in a range of hospital and community areas. These can include:
- neonatal intensive care
- paediatric oncology
- burns and plastics
- cancer care
- child protection
- continuing care for children with complex needs
- voluntary organisations
The majority of children and young people are cared for at home by their families with the support of a community nursing team. Opportunities also exist in:
- general practice (GP) practices, as specialists in child health
- day care centres, child health clinics and school health
- travel companies/holiday resorts
- nursing agencies
- private healthcare organisations
- patients' homes
- charities and voluntary organisations
'Registered Nurse:Adult' is the UK qualification which is generally transferable to other countries. Not all countries have equivalents to UK qualifications in mental health, learning disability, children's nursing, health visiting and the enrolled nurse. It there is no equivalent to your nursing qualification in the country you would like to go to then you will be able to work there as a qualified nurse.
This provides all the information you will need about health careers.
National Careers Service
Provides information, advice and guidance on learning, training and work opportunities.
Experience of Care Lead for NHS England, Kath Evans
Kath shares 10 ways to build quality care experiences for and with children, young people and their families - Picker Institute Europe