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Routes into Nursing

How Can I Get into the Nursing Profession?

Nursing is an extremely rewarding career choice where no day is ever the same. If you are a caring individual who relishes a challenge, we can assure you that you won't find a more worthwhile career. Whether you are considering a career change or have always wanted to work in nursing, read on to find out about some of the routes into the nursing profession.

Nursing associates

Training to become a nursing associate is one of the newer paths into the profession. The role was introduced by the government in October 2015 to bridge the gap between healthcare assistants (HCAs) and registered nurses.

Nursing associates are managed by qualified nurses to provide person-centred care to their patients. They are employed in one setting but gain experience across a wide range of placements as part of their training which lasts two years. At the end of the course, nursing associates achieve a level 5 qualification and can work in adult, children's or mental health services.

There has been huge interest in this role and there are currently 2,000 trainees in England, across 35 pilot sites. The role is regulated by the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) who are developing a code of conduct for nursing associates. You can find more information on the NMC website.

Minimum requirements

To apply for the role, individuals will need to have a level 2 qualification in maths and literacy and be able to demonstrate the ability to study the programme at level 5. A level 2 qualification can include GCSEs at grade A* - C plus a qualification such as an NVQ level 2, GNVQ intermediate, key skills level 2 or functional skills level 2.

Career progression

Once qualified, nursing associates can go on to train further through a nursing degree apprenticeship.

Nursing degree apprenticeships

The apprenticeship levy came into effect earlier this year and from September, individuals will be able to study for a nursing degree through the apprenticeship programme.

Nursing degree apprenticeships will last three to four years but this may vary if the apprentice has any prior learning and experience which can be taken into consideration. With an apprenticeship, the employer will pay for the nursing degree.

Nursing degree apprenticeships are being offered at the Universities of Derby, Gloucestershire, Greenwich, and Sunderland. Funding has also been made available for future apprenticeships at the University of Wolverhampton in partnership with Walsall College, City of Wolverhampton College and Birmingham Metropolitan College.

Minimum requirements

Universities usually ask for two to three A-levels at level 3 and GCSEs in science, maths and English. However, the entry requirements do differ per institution so it is worth checking the university website for more details.

Career progression

Once qualified, nurses can specialise in a particular area of interest. They can also progress to a managerial role or move into clinical academic research.

Click here to find an apprenticeship in your area.

Full or part-time nursing degree

One of the more traditional routes into nursing is to graduate with a nursing degree which has been approved by the NMC.

Full and part-time study options are available and degrees can last three years or more. For full-time courses, you will need to contact UCAS and submit an application. If you are interested in a part-time course, you are able to contact the university directly.

Minimum requirements

Each university has set its own minimum entry requirements but students usually need to have two to three A-levels at level 3 and GCSEs in science, maths and English.

If you already have a first degree, it may be possible to go through the accelerated route and complete the nursing degree in two years.

To find an NMC-approved course please click here.

Career progression

Similar to the nursing degree apprenticeship, registered nurses are able to specialise in a particular area, progress to a managerial role or move into clinical academic research.

Healthcare assistants

Another way of getting into the profession is to work as a healthcare assistant (HCA), also known as a nursing auxiliary, nursing assistant or auxiliary nurse. This role isn't regulated by the NMC but working as an HCA is a great way to build your experience in care and work alongside other healthcare professionals.

Working in a hospital or community setting, HCAs carry out a range of tasks to support patients including washing, dressing, toileting, serving meals, making beds, and monitoring conditions.

Minimum requirements

There are no minimum entry requirements but employers may ask for specific qualifications or experience. At Medacs Healthcare, we ask that you have at least six months of NHS experience gained in the last two years. You can find out more by clicking here.

Career progression

HCAs can go on to train as nursing associates or even assistant practitioners.

Assistant practitioners

Assistant practitioners, also referred to as associate practitioners, have developed their skills and experience in a particular specialty. Similar to HCAs, they are not registered practitioners because the role is not regulated by the NMC.

Assistant practitioners can work in a wide range of departments and settings including hospitals and the community. Assistant practitioners can work alone without supervision but will be managed by a healthcare professional such as a nurse.

Minimum requirements

To train as an assistant practitioner you need to be working in a support role (such as an HCA) in the NHS. You will also require a level 3 qualification in healthcare such as the CACHE Diploma in Clinical Healthcare Support.

Career progression

Assistant practitioners can study part-time for a foundation degree in health and social care. As they develop their career, they can go on to train as a senior assistant practitioner or study for a nursing degree.

Find out more

With a range of paths and opportunities available to you, join the nursing profession today and enjoy a fulfilling career. For more information about our roles, please search for the latest jobs.

Sources: Health Careers, Health Education England, Nursing and Midwifery Council, Gov.UK, Nursing Times