Skip to main content Skip to footer

How to become a children's nurse

To become a children's nurse in the NHS you'll need to complete a pre-registration degree programme accredited by the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC).

What is a 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.

Starting your career as children's nurse

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

Speak to your guidance teacher or careers adviser about subjects offered at your school.

Work placements and volunteering

You may find it helpful to get some healthcare experience by doing a work placement or volunteering. You’ll get training, increase your knowledge, and learn new skills. This could help you when applying to university, college or a new job with NHSScotland. 

Education and training pathway

There are lots of different routes you could take to become a registered children's nurse. You could apply directly to do a university children's nursing degree programme.

If you choose to go to college first, you could do an HNC in Healthcare Practice. You could then apply to do an undergraduate pre-registration children's nursing degree at university.

Some nurses start their careers as nursing support workers. They can follow an established education pathway leading to a new career as a registered nurse.

Widening access

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.

Pre-registration undergraduate children's nursing degree programme

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

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

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.

Pre-registration postgraduate children's nursing degree programme

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

Course search

Search for college or university programmes on My World of Work.

Get to know 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.

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.

You’ll need these skills:

  • caring
  • communicating
  • problem-solving
  • teamworking
  • leading
  • 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.

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

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

  • hospitals
  • health centres
  • hospices
  • NHS 24

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

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.

Career progression

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

With further training, you could become a healthcare 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 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.

Professional bodies

When you become a qualified children's nurse, you must register with the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) to work in the NHS.

Navigate page

Explore careers

Explore careers

Discover the skills and qualifications you’ll need for each role and what the work will be like.

Explore careers

Help with recruitment

We'll guide you through the recruitment process, from applying online to interview preparation.

Help with recruitment