Comprehensive Guide to Becoming a Children’s Nurse in the UK

Children’s Nurse

Child nursing is a rewarding career that involves caring for children from newborns to adolescents, and considering the needs of their families. If you’re passionate about making a difference in the lives of young patients, this comprehensive guide will help you understand the path to becoming a children’s nurse in the UK.

Why Choose Children’s Nursing?

Children’s nursing offers numerous reasons to consider it as a career choice. Firstly, it gives you the opportunity to make a meaningful impact on the lives of children and their families. Second, it provides a high degree of flexibility, allowing you to work in various healthcare settings and with diverse patient groups. Lastly, the demand for skilled children’s nurses is on the rise, leading to excellent employment prospects and stability in your career.

Working Life as a Children’s Nurse

Child Nurse in the UK

Caring for a child is vastly different from caring for an adult. Children have unique health needs and require specialized attention to ensure their well-being. As a children’s nurse, you’ll need to understand the developmental stages of a healthy child from infancy to adolescence, enabling you to minimize the impact of illnesses on their growth and development. Collaboration with parents or guardians is essential in providing the best possible care for the child.

Effective communication plays a crucial role in treating children. Unlike adults, children may not be able to articulate their feelings or describe the severity and nature of their pain. As a children’s nurse, you’ll need to interpret a child’s behavior and reactions to assess their condition accurately. This ability becomes critical in identifying signs of deterioration in a child’s health, which can occur rapidly and require immediate intervention.

Children’s nursing takes place in various settings, including hospitals, day care centers, clinics, and even in the community, such as the child’s home. As part of a multidisciplinary team, you’ll work closely with doctors, hospital play staff, healthcare assistants, newborn hearing screeners, psychologists, and social workers to ensure comprehensive patient care.

Entry Requirements for Children’s Nursing

To pursue a career in children’s nursing, you’ll need to meet specific entry requirements set by universities. Typically, you’ll require a minimum of five GCSEs at grade 4/C or above, which may include English language or literature and a science subject. Additionally, two A-levels or equivalent level 3 qualifications are generally required, although some universities may ask for three A-levels or equivalent.

For individuals who already possess a degree, there is an option to pursue a postgraduate qualification through an accelerated program, which shortens the course duration. It’s important to note that each university has its own entry requirements, so it’s essential to check the specific requirements of the universities you plan to apply to. You can find children’s nursing courses listed on the Course Finder platform.

Alternatives to A-levels are available, and you should verify with each university directly if your qualifications meet their entry standards. Some alternative qualifications include Access courses (e.g., Access to Nursing), Pearson BTEC Level 3 Diploma qualifications, Scottish Highers/Advanced Highers, OCR Cambridge Technicals, and the International Baccalaureate (IB). Depending on the qualification, specific levels of achievement may be necessary, such as a merit or distinction in the case of BTEC.

In certain instances, it is possible to combine academic qualifications with vocational qualifications, such as an A-level and a BTEC qualification. It’s vital to confirm with universities that the course you’re interested in will be accepted for a children’s nursing degree.

Financial Support While Studying at University

Financial support is available for eligible students studying children’s nursing at a university. Students can receive at least £5,000 per year to support their studies, and in some cases, individuals with certain personal circumstances may be eligible for additional funding. The best part is that this support does not need to be repaid.

For more detailed information about the financial support available, refer to the resources provided by universities or relevant funding organizations.

Other Routes Into Children’s Nursing

Apart from the traditional university route, there are other pathways into children’s nursing. Nursing degree apprenticeships are offered by some employers, providing an alternative route to become a qualified nurse. Additionally, opportunities for current healthcare support staff to apply for nursing associate apprenticeships are increasing, which can eventually lead to nursing degree apprenticeships.

If you wish to explore these alternative routes, research universities and employers offering these programs to understand their specific entry requirements and eligibility criteria.

Numeracy and Literacy Skills

Applicants to child nursing degrees must demonstrate evidence of adequate literacy and numeracy skills. This requirement ensures that nurses can effectively communicate in English or Welsh, both verbally and in writing, including computer-based communication. Additionally, children’s nurses must possess accurate numerical skills, including the ability to work with volume, weight, length, and perform basic mathematical operations involving decimals, fractions, and percentages.

Individuals with disabilities can meet these requirements through reasonable adjustments, which may be provided to accommodate their needs during assessments and training.

Accelerated Programs

If you have relevant previous learning, it may count towards your pre-registration nursing course, potentially shortening the duration of your course. Universities assess each case individually, considering factors such as a relevant degree (e.g., health-related or biology degree) or relevant practice experience in nursing or a related discipline. If your previous learning is deemed relevant, you may be able to pursue a shortened course, saving time on your journey to becoming a children’s nurse.

If you’re interested in accelerated programs, use the Course Finder platform to search for “accelerated” programs and explore the opportunities available.

Criminal Convictions

To secure a place in a pre-registration nursing program, you’ll need to undergo a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check. As part of your university application, you’ll be required to consent to this check. Having a criminal conviction or police caution does not automatically disqualify you from working in the NHS. Relevant circumstances surrounding any conviction will be considered, and decisions will be made on a case-by-case basis.

For certain nursing programs involving regular care for or sole charge of children, you’ll also be required to undergo a Protection of Children Act List check before starting your clinical placement.

Health Conditions

Aspiring child nurses must meet specific health and character requirements to be considered safe and effective nurses. Universities will assess applicants to ensure they are physically and mentally capable of carrying out their nursing responsibilities. If you have any health-related concerns that may affect your ability to work or study, or if you have questions about the health requirements, it’s essential to contact the university to which you plan to apply.

For further information on health requirements and considerations, refer to the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) resources.

Personal Characteristics and Skills Required

Becoming a successful child nurse requires a unique set of personal characteristics and skills. You’ll need to be intuitive and empathetic, capable of reassuring distressed children and their families or carers. Effective communication skills, both verbal and non-verbal, are crucial in interacting with young patients.

As a child nurse, you may often need to educate and advise a child’s parents or carers on how to treat the child at home. Therefore, respect, sensitivity, and empathy are essential characteristics for nurturing a trusting relationship with patients and their families.

Child nurses encounter patients with diverse needs, so being highly organized, flexible, and capable of prioritizing effectively is vital for delivering quality care. A good nurse must also possess keen observational skills to assess patients accurately and make informed decisions about their treatment.

Pay and Benefits

Child nurses typically work around 37.5 hours per week, with varying shift patterns that may include nights, early starts, evenings, weekends, and bank holidays. As a child nurse, you will be paid according to the Agenda for Change (AFC) pay system, starting at band 5.


In addition to a competitive salary, child nurses enjoy generous pension schemes, health service discounts, and 27 days of annual leave plus bank holidays.

Read more – Comprehensive Guide to Nurses’ Salaries and Benefits in the UK.

Becoming a children’s nurse in the UK offers a fulfilling and rewarding career that makes a positive impact on people’s lives. As a child nurse, you will play a crucial role in supporting individuals on their journey to recovery and helping them lead independent and fulfilling lives. Whether you’re just starting your educational journey or considering a career change, children’s nursing provides various entry routes and development opportunities. If you possess the right skills, values, and compassion, children’s nursing could be the perfect career choice for you.

Remember to check the specific entry requirements of universities or employers and stay committed to continuous learning and professional development to provide the best possible care to those in need.

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