Nurses provide medical, emotional and social support to ill or injured patients in hospitals, hospices, residential homes and other care settings.
They are responsible for planning, providing and monitoring their patients’ care and recovery procedures, whilst also updating and reassuring their families.
This detailed guide features a full nurse job description example and covers all the need-to-know information about a nursing career, including average salaries, job requirements, progression opportunities and more.
- Nurse job description
- How much do nurses earn?
- What does a nurse do?
- Requirements, skills and qualifications
- Who employs nurses?
- Which junior jobs progress to nurse roles?
Nurse job description
Staff nurse | South West Care Group
About South West Care Group
South West Care Group is a primary provider of care services across the South of England, delivering quality care and support to elderly and disabled people within our state-of-the-arts care centres and residential homes.
About the role
We’re looking for a registered general nurse (band 5 or equivalent) to join our in-house team and help us to ensure we fully meet residents’ medical, physical and emotional requirements. Reporting to the nursing manager, the post-holder will provide high-quality, hands-on clinical support to our nursing residents on a daily basis.
- Carrying out full physical and psychological assessments of all new residents
- Assisting residents with day-to-day routine care alongside care workers
- Monitoring resident’s vital signs including blood pressure, temperature, blood sugar level, heart rate and oxygen level
- Preparing, updating and implementing tailored therapy and care plans
- Administering and recording all required medication to residents on a daily basis
- Ensuring that the safety and welfare of residents is of the highest standards at all times
- Ensuring that nursing policies and procedures are carried out in accordance with current nursing standards and practices
Location & commitments
- Full-time role on a shift basis — 40 hours per week
- Must be willing to work a variety of shifts, including long days, nights, bank holidays and weekends
- Overtime may be required (pay enhancements available)
- Involves some travel between our residential care homes
- Fully NMC Registered Nurse (RGN, RMN or RNLD)
- Experienced in care planning processes and using clinical assessment tools
- Highly compassionate, empathetic and patient in nature
- Excellent time management and organisation skills
- Good standard of English and able to communicate effectively
- 6 months+ experience in a full-time nursing role
- Previous experience of working in a residential care home setting
Contact us to apply
To apply, please contact our HR manager Joe Jones by sending your CV and a short covering letter to firstname.lastname@example.org.
How much do nurses earn?
The average nurse salary in the UK is £36,678, but salaries can be significantly lower or higher than this, depending on experience and specialisation.
Nurse salaries in the UK
- Low: £29,000
- Average: £36,678
- High: £47,500
Nurse salaries will vary hugely depending on:
- The sector – Nurses in the public sector earn about £5k more per year than nurses working in the private sector, on average
- The pay band – Nurses in the public sector are paid in line with the NHS Agenda for Change (AfC) pay rates, ranging from £24,907 (Band 5) for newly-qualified nurses, to £63,751 and above (Band 8C) for highly experienced and specialised nurses
- Experience – Although nurses in the private sector won’t be paid via the band system, pay will still generally rise with experience
- Specialism – The type of care a nurse provides will affect pay rates – e.g. mental health, accident and emergency, midwifery
- Location – Salaries in London typically come with a high-cost area supplement
For example, a nurse in London working at band 5 in the NHS will typically receive a slightly higher salary than a nurse in Manchester working at band 5 in the NHS, due to the London weighting. Additionally, a public sector nurse may receive a higher salary than a private sector nurse with similar experience — however, the public sector nurse’s working environment is likely to be more stressful and demanding.
The figures above are taken from a range of job advertisements and therefore do not include extra benefits such as unsociable hours pay, pay enhancements and holiday allowances.
What does a nurse do?
The typical nurse job description includes the following duties, tasks and responsibilities:
- Assessing patients – Performing initial assessments of patient’s conditions when they arrive on the ward
- Monitoring patients – Closely observing the condition of patients and regularly checking their vital signs (pulse, blood pressure, temperature etc)
- Dressing wounds – Cleaning, disinfecting and dressing wounds and cuts
- Creating and updating care plans – Creating detailed patient care plans determining what type of care each patient needs and how the support will be given
- Administering medicines – Safely administering medicines, drugs and injections to patients
- Taking blood samples – Drawing blood samples and performing other testing procedures if required
- Maintaining patient records – Updating and maintaining patient care plans and treatment records as necessary
- Supporting doctors – Working closely with doctors during tests and patient examinations
- Supporting and informing families – Keeping patients’ families and friends updated with treatment and recovery progress and acting as a source of support when needed
- Planning patient discharges – Liaising with families, GPs and social workers to plan discharges and ensure patients will receive the appropriate care at home
- Carrying out handovers – Informing colleagues of vital patient information at the end of each shift
- Supervising junior staff – Supervising and mentoring less experienced nursing staff, health care assistants and student nurses
What do nurses need?
To work as a nurse in the UK, professional qualifications, work experience and registration is essential. Additionally, nurses require certain skills and personal attributes in order to thrive within the role and provide excellent standards of care.
While specific requirements do vary between roles, here’s a general overview of what’s needed to get started as a nurse:
Staff nurse/general nurse (band 5) jobs can be gained as soon as a nurse becomes fully qualified, with no practical experience
Junior/deputy ward sister, deputy ward manager (band 6) jobs usually require around a year and a half to two years of experience in a full-time band 5 nursing role
Ward manager/sister, charge nurse, nurse manager (band 7) jobs require several years of experience in a band 6 role, as well as proven experience of leading or managing a team in some capacity
Nurses require a broad range of skills in order to provide high-quality support and care for their patients, including:
- Communication & interpersonal: Communicating with managers, colleagues, patients and their families, from diverse backgrounds and age groups, on a daily basis
- Empathy: Displaying patience, empathy, compassion and sensitivity to patients and their families
- Resilience: Remaining calm and professional in high-pressured, emotionally-charged and stressful work environments
- Medical knowledge: Working knowledge of the human body, medicines and any area they specialise in
- Stamina: Working physically-demanding, long shifts on foot
- Organisation: Looking after several patients with varying needs at once
- Flexibility: Dealing with constantly changing responsibilities, workloads and hours and unexpected situations
- Attention to detail: Administering medicines and recording symptoms accurately
- Decision making: Quickly assessing and analysing situations and making critical decisions
- IT: Using a range of computer and software packages competently
- Leadership: Confidently leading a team and mentoring junior staff — especially as nursing careers progress
Nurses must hold a nursing degree in order to work as a nurse in the UK. Additionally, nurses who want to progress in their career and move into senior positions must continue their professional development by taking relevant courses throughout their career.
Let’s take a closer look at the key nursing qualifications:
Nursing undergraduate degree
A nursing degree is an essential requirement for nursing jobs in the UK
Courses are typically three years long and have a 50/50 blend of formal theoretical teaching and placements in local hospital or community settings. Nursing students are required to specialise in one of four key nursing specialisms: adult, children, mental health or learning disability. However, some ‘dual field’ nursing courses allow specialism within two of the key areas.
It’s also possible to become a nurse via a compact two-year postgraduate course, though this requires a prior degree in a relevant subject — such as health, biological or social sciences.
Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) membership
The NMC are the nursery and midwifery regulators for England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. They set the requirements for the professional education of nurses, to ensure standards are kept high. Qualified nurses who wish to practice in the UK must join the NMC register as a legal requirement.
Masters degree in Nursing
Lots of graduate nurses will eventually go on to complete a MSc in nursing.
Masters qualifications are an increasingly essential requirement for higher-level management, education or clinical roles within nursing. For this reason, gaining the qualification is a great way to boost future progression opportunities and long-term earning potential.
Masters degrees are often sponsored by employers, especially the NHS, after a few years of full-time nurse employment.
Professional development qualifications
In order to move up the NHS bands, nurses must prove that they are keeping themselves up-to-date with current practice and continuing their learning.
Additionally, in order to renew membership with the NMC (every three years), nurses must have completed 35 hours of continuing professional development (CPD), including 20 hours of participatory learning.
There are a huge range of courses and training opportunities available, meaning nurses can tailor their professional development strategy to suit their interests and career goals. Any essential training will be funded by the employer, but optional/non-essential courses will often need to be self-funded.
What is expected of nurses?
Nurses will typically be expected to commit to the following:
- Shift work – The majority of nurses will typically work a mix of 8 or 12 hour daytime, evening and night shifts — but those working in specialist units or GP’s surgeries may benefit from standard 9am-5pm hours
- Unsociable hours – Nursing is a 24/7 job and those working in major hospitals will be expected to work unsociable hours, including weekends and bank holidays
- Full or part-time hours – Due to the nurse shortage, contracts are generally negotiable and are available on a part or full-time basis — however, those working at band 6 or above may be required to work full-time to meet the demands of the job
- Location – Normally based at a single location, such as a hospital, clinic, doctor’s surgery, school or care home — with the exception of district and community nurses, who may travel around the local area to visit patients
Nurses working for the NHS can expect a generous benefits package, including:
- Ongoing training and development
- Generous holiday allowance — at least 27 days + bank/public holiday allowance, rising to 33 after 10 years of service
- Pay enhancements – for out-of-hours, overtime and shift working
- Pension scheme – the NHS Pension Scheme is still one of the most generous in the UK
- NHS employee discounts
Nurses working in the private sector will receive varying benefits packages from employer to employer, but typically receive a generous holiday allowance, pay enhancements (if applicable) and a pension scheme.
Who employs nurses?
Nurses work for a wide variety of health and care settings, such as hospitals, clinics, schools and residential homes.
The majority of nurses work in the public sector (for NHS hospitals/clinics and schools etc.), but work is also available in the private sector (for private healthcare providers and care services etc.).
Nurses typically work in the following settings:
- Doctor’s surgeries
- Dental surgeries
- Homecare settings
- Residential homes
- Armed forces
- Cosmetic surgery clinics
- Specialist treatment centres
Nurses can also choose to work as a ‘bank nurse’ for the NHS staff bank or a staffing agency. In these instances, nurses can choose what shifts they take on and when, but may not be eligible for as many benefits as full-time workers.
Which junior jobs progress to nurse roles?
Prior work experience isn’t typically a requirement for newly-qualified nurses, as full placements and training are undertaken as part of the degree course or apprenticeship.
However, any work within the NHS or a care setting can help aspiring nurses to gain valuable skills and gain an insight into whether the role is right for them, before committing to study. For this reason, many nurses start out in the roles of:
Healthcare assistants work closely with qualified nurses and doctors to provide essential care to patients. They’re extremely valuable team members and help with a wide range of tasks, including feeding and washing patients, sterilising equipment, making beds and carrying out basic health checks.
With a few years of experience, dedicated healthcare assistants may be able to obtain or apply for a fully or part-funded secondment (going to university on a part-time basis whilst working for the NHS) to train to become a qualified nurse.
Nursing associates bridge the gap between healthcare support workers and registered nurses. They work to complete the core nursing tasks, which in turn frees up more time for registered nurses to focus on complex clinical care. It takes 2 years to train as a nursing associate, either on a university course or via a nursing associate apprenticeship.
Which senior jobs do nurses progress to?
After nurses become qualified, they’ll typically start an NHS band 5 role or a staff nurse role within private healthcare. Career pathways in nursing are incredibly varied and opportunities for progression are vast.
Within the NHS, nurses slowly work their way up from band 5 to 6, 7 and/or 8+. Roles within each band are extremely varied, but typically, staff nurses will first move into the roles of:
Ward sister/charge nurse
Ward sisters and charge nurses lead a team of staff nurses and senior staff nurses on a ward. They ensure that patients consistently receive a high standard of care and that staff are able to continue to meet the high standards in their absence.
Ward managers take overarching responsibility for an entire ward. They typically have more office-bound duties than staff nurses and ward sisters and are expected to monitor and manage the care plans of every patient on their ward at all times. They also act as a mentor and role model to their team, helping to develop their clinical skills and competencies.
Thereafter, nurses may continue to pursue senior management roles or decide to progress to a clinical specialist role, such as:
- Anaesthetist nurse: Working with anaesthetists to safely administer anaesthesia and managing postoperative recovery
- Orthopaedic nurse: Providing care to patients with musculoskeletal conditions such as arthritis and joint replacements
- Psychiatric nurse: Providing care to patients suffering from mental and behavioural health problems
- Paediatric nurse: Providing care to ill or injured babies, children and young adults
- Intravenous therapy nurse: Inserting and maintaining IV lines and caring for the patient receiving the therapy
- Critical care nurse: Providing care to patients with severe and life-threatening injuries and medical issues
Nurse job description – conclusion
A career in nursing offers the opportunity to make a real difference to people’s lives.
The role can be challenging, stressful and, at times, emotionally draining, but above all, is known to be highly rewarding.
Working as a registered nurse requires a nursing degree, as well as a lifelong commitment to professional development.
However, due to a national shortage of nurses, employment opportunities are widespread and the career offers fantastic progression and promotion opportunities.
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