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Training to be a nurse

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This page outlines the initial training involved in becoming a nurse.

Introduction

To work in the NHS, nurses must hold a degree or diploma in nursing (a “pre-registration” programme), which leads to registration with the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC), enabling them to practice as a nurse.

Nursing attracts people from all walks of life and so groups of student nurses are made up of a mixture of ages, sexes and cultures.

Degrees and diploma programmes comprise of 50% theory and 50% practice, with time split between the higher education institute (HEI), which runs the course, and practical placements in a variety of healthcare settings.

It is intended that nursing will move to a degree level qualification leading to registration for new entrants to the profession. The earliest possible date this would happen would be Sept 2011 and the details are being worked through at the moment. Courses in 2009 and 2010 will run as planned with no structural changes.

Branches of nursing

Pre-registration degrees and diploma programmes are offered in four “branches” – adult, children (paediatric), learning disability and mental health. Some courses offer the chance to combine social work with mental health or learning disability nursing. Usually, you will need to decide which of the four branches of nursing you wish to train for, before applying for a programme. A small number of HEIs may offer you the flexibility to choose your branch after having started the course. You are therefore strongly recommended to contact the HEI(s) that you are considering before making your application.

All nursing degrees and diplomas consist of common foundation programmes (CFP) that are taught across all four branches of nursing, usually for one year on full-time courses, before specialisation.

If, for example, you choose to go into mental health nursing, the placements during your second and third years of study (on a full-time course) will be mainly concentrated in that environment, and will focus on patients with mental health problems. However, certain aspects of training will be common to all branches of nursing.

For information about entry requirements into the following programmes, click here.

Pre-registration programmes


1. Pre-registration diploma of higher education in nursing (Dip HE nursing)

  • On completion, students are awarded both an academic and a professional qualification, through integrated study of theory and supervised nursing practice.
  • Supervised nursing practice is 50% of the programme and takes place in both community and hospital settings.
  • The programmes are normally three years in length, beginning with a 12 month common foundation programme (CFP), followed by around two years in one of the four branches of nursing: adult, mental health, learning disabilities or children’s nursing.

2. Pre-registration nursing degree

  • On completion, students are awarded both an academic and a professional qualification, through integrated study of theory and supervised nursing practice.
  • Supervised nursing practice is 50% of the programme and takes place in both community and hospital settings.
  • The programmes are normally three years in length, beginning with a 12 month common foundation programme (CFP), followed by around two years in one of the four branches of nursing: adult, mental health, learning disabilities or children’s nursing.
  • Some degree programmes last for four years.

3. Accelerated programmes for graduates who hold a health related degree.

  • These shortened programmes are modified from existing nursing programmes and lead to qualification in adult, mental health, learning disabilities or children’s nursing.
  • Accelerated programmes are at least 24 months in length. A minimum of six months is undertaken in the CFP and at least 18 months in the appropriate branch programme.

4. Part-time study

Part-time pre-registration nursing programmes are provided by some universities and normally last for five or six years. They are available to staff working in the NHS – usually as an assistant or an associate practitioner with qualifications up to NVQ level 3 (or equivalent). You’d be employed by the NHS, which would provide support in terms of time off to attend on a part-time basis.

After your pre-registration programme   

Once you’ve successfully completed your pre-registration programme and registered with the NMC, you can apply for nursing posts. With some experience, you can look to develop your career further, which may mean further study/training.

Healthcare is constantly developing, technology improving, and the needs of the population changing. Once qualified, it is necessary to keep yourself up to date with health care issues and practice. This will be required by the NMC, and encouraged by your employer.

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