Children's nurse

Children’s nurses care for sick, injured or disabled children and young people. They provide comfort and reassurance to patients and their parents or carers in difficult or stressful circumstances.

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:

  • Biology
  • Human Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Care
  • Psychology
  • English
  • Maths

Work placement and volunteering

You may find it helpful to get some experience of working in healthcare by doing a work placement. There may also be opportunities to volunteer. This could help you when applying to university, college or a new job with NHSScotland.


Foundation Apprenticeships

A Foundation Apprenticeship could give you the skills, knowledge and work experience to become a children's nurse.

Find out more about a Foundation Apprenticeship in Social Service and Healthcare

Modern Apprenticeships

Begin or continue your journey towards becoming a children's nurse by completing a Modern Apprenticeship.

Learn about the Modern Apprenticeship in Healthcare Support.

All Healthcare Support modern apprentices study the three mandatory units of communication, health and safety, and learning development. For nursing, you will then choose your remaining units from the clinical pathway options.

College and university

At college, you can do an HNC in Healthcare 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, you can get into higher education through the Scottish Wider Access Programme (SWAP). Many universities also provide access programmes to help learners get the degree entry qualifications they need.

Fully-funded degree-level nursing programmes through the Open University are available if you’re an experienced nursing support worker who wants to become a registered nurse.

There are 4 universities in Scotland offering undergraduate programmes in children’s nursing, approved by the NMC:

  • Edinburgh Napier University
  • Glasgow Caledonian University
  • Robert Gordon University
  • University of Dundee

Pre-registration undergraduate programmes usually take 3 years full-time study. Part-time options and distance learning opportunities may also be available.

Some universities offer an accelerated postgraduate masters-level route for pre-registration nursing, which takes 2 to 2.5 years.

For more information on related further and higher education courses, search My World of Work.

The role

Caring for babies, children and young people is different from adult nursing. You would use your specialist skills, knowledge and experience to recognise any changes in health, so you can respond to their needs.

Building relationships and communicating well with children and young people is essential to the role.

What you’ll do

Tasks include:

  • carrying out physical examinations and clinical assessments
  • monitoring patients and recording their clinical condition
  • giving medications and injections
  • responding quickly to emergencies

You would also support parents and carers who have an ill child in hospital or at home.

Top skills

You’ll need these skills:

  • caring
  • listening
  • problem-solving
  • communication
  • teamworking
  • critical thinking

As a nurse, you’ll also need to be able to review clinical information to make decisions about care. 

Who you’ll work with

Children’s nurses usually work in a team with other health and social care professionals, including:

  • doctors
  • healthcare support workers
  • dieticians
  • occupational therapists
  • pharmacists
  • healthcare scientists
  • physiotherapists
  • social workers

Working environment

As a children’s nurse the NHS, you could work in:

  • hospitals
  • health centres
  • hospices
  • NHS24

Children’s nurses also work in the care sector, independent healthcare sector and in education.

Useful information

To work as a children's nurse in NHSScotland, you’ll need to:

Did you know?

There are over 47,900 registered nurses working in the NHS in Scotland.

Learning and development

Once registered as a children’s 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 experience as a registered children’s nurse, there are lots of specialisms to choose from, including:

  • neonatal
  • accident and emergency nursing
  • intensive care nursing
  • theatre nursing
  • cancer and palliative care nursing
  • community staff nursing

You could also become a play specialist. There are also opportunities to move into management.


Revalidation is a process that nurses need to follow to maintain their registration with the NMC every 3 years.

It's 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.

Professional bodies

To become a children's nurse, you must register with: