Every 36 hours, the NHS treats over one million patients across the entire UK. For the patients that are using the service for long-term health conditions, one particular healthcare professional gives them the right level of advice, care and support – the specialist nurse.
What is specialist nursing?
Specialist nurses work in a variety of acute and community settings, specialising in a particular area of practice from mental health to district nursing. Typical specialisms include theatre, ITU, RGN, A&E and community, and given just how many patients the NHS treats every 36 hours, specialist nurses can work in isolation or as part of a multidisciplinary team to provide high-quality, patient-centred care.
The work of a specialist nurse is instrumental in reducing unnecessary hospital admissions and readmissions, reducing waiting times, freeing up a consultant’s time to treat other patients and most importantly, being available to help, educate and reassure patients on how to best manage their health condition(s).
What education or certification do I need to become a specialist nurse?
To work as a specialist nurse, you’ll need to complete the below steps:
- Obtain an undergraduate nursing degree or apprenticeship
- Register with the Nursing and Midwifery Council
- Gain experience within your preferred specialised area
- Obtain a postgraduate qualification
- Obtain postgraduate training
- For some roles, obtaining the necessary nursing teaching qualification
When it comes to obtaining your postgraduate qualification, most universities are able to offer flexible or remote working to allow you to earn whilst you learn. For nurses obtaining their Master’s, it’s a great time to consider locum nursing shifts as it gives you the opportunity to work when your schedule allows it.
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What career path can I take as a specialist nurse?
Due to the extensive training and education, specialist nurses have the ability to work in a variety of different healthcare settings including hospitals, clinics, district, private practice, long-term care facilities and health centres.
Of course, your healthcare setting will be decided by the specialty you train in. To demonstrate, Geriatrics may mean you’ll travel between hospitals and elderly care homes, or if you specialise in Obstetrics and women’s health, you’ll be placed in a maternity ward at a hospital, health clinic or travelling to people’s homes.
The UK nursing system is based on the ‘Agenda for Change’ which was designed to guarantee career progression for all nurses. For further information on how the nursing banding system works including information on pay, please click here.
What can I specialise in as a nurse?
Similar to any other profession, every specialist nurse is different and each nurse will excel within different environments – that’s why there are plenty of specialties to choose from.
If you’re a people person and enjoy caring for a range of patients from babies to the elderly then district nursing may work best for you. Alternatively, if you have a specific passion or potentially want to go on to research a particular area of healthcare, then you have hundreds of specialties to choose from including but not limited to: Cardiovascular, Cancer, Rehabilitation, Trauma, Fertility, Breast Feeding, Burns, Diabetes, Emergency, Infection Control, Occupational Health to Peri-Operative – the list is endless.
Regardless of which role you choose, you’ll always be able to put patient care first and foremost.
Specialist nursing provides a great opportunity to do more than just care for your patients, it’s an opportunity to get to know them, educate them, support them and most importantly, change their life.