Adult nurses in the NHS help people cope with illness, treatment and recovery by assessing their needs, writing care plans and monitoring progress during medical care.
To work in the NHS, nurses must be registered with the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC).
Starting your career
Choosing subjects at school
To get on a course that could lead to a career in nursing, useful subjects include:
- Human Biology
College and university
At college, you can do an HNC in Care and Administrative Practice, which could lead to an undergraduate pre-registration nursing degree.
Widening participation supports adult learners who want to go to university. If you’re an adult with few or no qualifications, the Scottish Widening Access Programme (SWAP) can help you get into higher education. Many universities also provide access programmes to help learners get the degree entry qualifications they need.
Fully-funded routes to degree level nursing are available if you’re an experienced nursing support worker who wants to become a registered staff nurse.
In Scotland, the following universities offer undergraduate programmes in adult nursing, approved by the NMC:
- Edinburgh Napier University
- Glasgow Caledonian University
- Queen Margaret University
- Robert Gordon University
- The Open University
- University of Dundee
- University of Edinburgh
- University of Glasgow
- University of Stirling
- University of the Highlands and Islands
- University of the West of Scotland
Pre-registration undergraduate programmes usually take 3 years full-time study. Part-time options and distance learning opportunities may also be available.
Search on My World of Work for related further and higher education courses. You should check specific entry requirements before applying.
An apprenticeship is a good way to start your career in healthcare.
A Foundation Apprenticeship in Social Services and Healthcare could give you valuable work experience and the skills needed for a career in the NHS.
A Modern Apprenticeship in Healthcare Support (clinical) is another route to a career in healthcare.
Find out more about apprenticeships at apprenticeships.scot.
If you’re at school, work experience could help you when applying to college, university or for a job in healthcare. You’ll learn new skills, improve your knowledge and discover what it’s like to work in the health service. Find out how to apply for work experience with the NHS.
You would have a vital role in helping adult patients and their families understand information about their diagnoses, treatment and health more generally. You’ll also learn how to carry out different types of clinical procedures and respond to each patient’s physical, clinical and emotional needs.
Depending on your role, you could:
- develop specific skills in surgical and medical care
- focus on community or palliative care
What you’ll do
- carrying out physical examinations and clinical assessments
- monitoring patients and recording their clinical condition
- giving medications and injections
- responding quickly to emergencies
- acting as an advocate for patients and their families
You would also support people with their wider nutritional, physical, hygiene and emotional needs.
You’ll need these skills:
- critical thinking
As a nurse, you’ll need to be able to review clinical information and make decisions about care. Soft skills like empathy and compassion are important too.
Who you’ll work with
Adult nurses usually work in a team with other health and social care professionals, including:
- healthcare support workers
- healthcare scientists
- social workers
As an adult nurse the NHS, you could work in:
- health centres
- people’s homes
Adult nurses also work in the care sector, independent healthcare sector, education, industry and the military.
To work as an adult nurse in NHSScotland, you’ll need to:
- register with the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC)
- complete occupational health checks
- join the Protecting Vulnerable Groups (PVG) scheme managed by Disclosure Scotland
Did you know?
There are over 46,800 registered nurses working in the NHS in Scotland.
Learning and development
Once registered as an adult nurse, there are ongoing requirements for education and skills development. You’ll also have lots of opportunities to go further and learn more.
In your first year as a newly qualified nurse, you’ll get extra support and guidance through the Flying Start programme.
In the NHS, you may choose to be a staff nurse throughout your nursing career, keeping up to date through continuing professional development. Taking extra courses and workplace learning could lead to progression through the career pathway to senior, advanced or consultant level.
When you’ve qualified and gained experienced as a registered adult nurse, there are lots of specialisms to choose from, including:
- district nursing
- general practice nursing
- rehabilitation nursing
- older people’s nursing
- accident and emergency nursing
- intensive care nursing
- theatre nursing
- cancer and palliative care nursing
- community staff nursing
- occupational health nursing
Revalidation is a process which nurses need to follow to maintain their registration with the NMC every 3 years.
It is an ongoing process throughout your career as a nurse and aims to:
- promote good practice
- maintain and strengthen public confidence in the profession
Find out more about revalidation on the NMC website.