- 25 February 2020
- 12 min read
The complete guide to becoming a Children’s Nurse
This article explains everything you need to know if you’re thinking of becoming a Children’s Nurse. Grace, a qualified paediatric critical care nurse, details it all, including typical pay and why she loves her job.
Topics covered in this article
Why choose a career as a Children’s Nurse?
Children’s nursing a popular choice due to its diverse and interesting range of career options, not to mention that working with children is FUN!
This is backed up by the data.
There are currently 51,005 Children's Nurses registered to the NMC.
What’s more, according to a report by the NMC in 2018, Children’s nursing was the only nursing field to increase its numbers on the UK NMC register in the five years between 2013 and 2018.
Why I decided to become a Children’s Nurse / Paediatric Nurse
As a child I had hip dysplasia, eczema and asthma, causing me to be in and out of hospital.
This drew me to children’s nursing in high school as it combined my love for biology, physical activity and working with children.
I started my degree in 2012 and was instantly drawn to critical care nursing.
After graduating I worked in critical care in my home city of Cardiff and continued to study a high dependency and then critical care course.
I’m currently working in paediatric critical care in Melbourne, Australia.
How much do Children's Nurses get paid?
The majority of newly qualified paediatric / children's nurses will start their career within the NHS on a band 5 pay scale.
This begins at £24,214 per year and is set to increase to £24,907 by 2021 under the ‘NHS Agenda for Change’ pay scales.
How does Paediatric Nursing for the NHS differ to the private sector?
Private sector nursing within paediatrics often consists of day surgery and clinics for children and families opting to use private healthcare and move up NHS waiting lists quickly for common surgeries such as tonsillectomies.
You may have a different patient demographic and shorter shift lengths working in this sector.
The patient ratios may be smaller in the private sector compared with the NHS and sometimes the pay may be more.
Private and public sector paediatric nursing within the UK can be very similar, with care and treatment given being almost identical!
There are also not a large amount of career opportunities within the private sector of paediatrics when compared with NHS services.
Can I work as a Paediatric Nurse for an employment agency?
6 months experience is usually all that is required, and you can start work in hospitals before transitioning to community work if you don’t feel confident as a lone worker in your first few years of qualifying.
The perks of working for an employment agency can be attractive as they offer flexibility and higher rates of pay for when you want a financial top-up for that holiday or new piece of furniture.
The cons of working at an agency are that you are often not part of a team and your hours may not be guaranteed.
When working on agency be sure to consider that you don’t go over your legal allowed working hours in the UK (48 hours a week averaged over 17 weeks) and don’t let it affect any other full time employment you may have.
Interview tips for Children's Nurses
Make sure you know where you’re going the night before, have everything prepared, know what you’re wearing and leave earlier thank you think you need to, always!
Make sure you bring your passion and personal experiences to interview, show the interviewers why you are a fantastic nurse and they would be lucky to have you on their team.
When you are asked a question, make sure you appropriately elaborate on your answers and if you need a moment to pause and think, you can always politely ask for the question to be repeated
Know the hospital core values, this is VITAL.
I was even asked this just a few weeks ago when interviewing for a permanent position at the job I already work at.
Also research the hospitals history, learning anything significant about it and what makes them special.
Is it a major trauma centre, for example.
Or is the organisation involved in research and innovation?
Towards the end of the interview you will likely be asked if you have any questions for them.
Make sure you have some, for example what learning opportunities you will have, how your hours will look and your pay if not stated on your application.
Lastly be friendly, smile as you enter the room and don’t be afraid to say if you’re nervous.
What does a typical day for a Paediatric Nurse look like?
In critical care EVERY day is different, which is what I love about the job.
You may have two high dependency patients or one intensive care patient and there may be discharges and handovers through the day.
The core themes of my day are always the same, receiving handover, having a safe bed space to manage your patient’s vital signs, taking patient observations and giving medications.
We also frequently make clinical assessments of patients, sometimes taking them to scan or theatre… and occasionally finding time to pop to the loo and make a hot drink!
But seriously, it’s fast paced, you never stop learning and medicine never stops evolving.
Some of my favourite times at work in the ICU are singing, playing games with the children and laughing together.
When children are sicker and more sleepy, I have the most enjoyment giving them a bed bath with their parents, combing their hair and hearing about their personalities when they are well.
What are the types of positions and settings available in Children's Nursing?
There are a vast range of settings and career opportunities and you can change your career path at any time if you develop a new interest or your life changes and you need different working hours.
You may work in a hospital on the wards or ED, the community as a school nurse or the GP surgery.
There are clinic roles, nurse specialist opportunities as well as management, research and even lecturing.
You may work 8 hour, 10 hour or 12 hour shifts and can get many 9-5 community roles.
What I love about working as a Children's Nurse
There is something truly inspiring about children’s resilience, happiness and their unique take on life.
They can wake up in the ICU and just ask to have their favourite movie on and a drink of water and not complain one bit about all they have been through.
They make me feel positive and hopeful and I feel it’s a real privilege to care for them and their families every day.
They also put an enormous amount of trust in us and the medical team, so I always try to give excellent care and try to make them at ease and smile along the way.
What are the challenges faced by Paediatric Nurses?
It’s no secret that nursing is challenging, especially caring for children and their families in situations no one ever hopes or even thinks they could be in.
Working in critical care, nurses see highly emotional and distressed patients and parents every day.
Low staffing levels is also a common theme within the UK and other developed countries health care systems, coupled with long working hours.
I don’t pretend these issues aren’t there but feel the best way to combat these challenges are to be calm, kind, have excellent communication skills and look after your own well being as a nurse inside and outside of work.
The job is SO worth it and I have countless wonderful and happy days that are well staffed and full of smiles and success.
What is the current state of Paediatric Nursing in the UK?
I’ve never been a nurse manager and I’m not particularly political but I believe the National Health Service is excellent, and the care we give is something to be truly proud of.
Across paediatric nursing funding and staffing will continue to be a debated issue for years to come and budget cuts and lower staffing is something I have witnessed and worked in first hand for many years.
I feel the NHS is one of the most special health care systems in the world and after living in Australia the past year and paying to access healthcare I can see how much we are given.
What does the future of Paediatric Nursing in the UK look like?
It is unclear if in the future the UK will move back to a ‘general’ nursing program with nurses studying all fields during their degree and later specialising after they qualify.
This system works in other countries but also does not equip nurses with the specialist knowledge required to care for children who are so developmentally different to adults.
Browse vacancies and start creating your Children's Nurse CV
Nurses.co.uk has children's nurse vacancies within the NHS and private sector, giving you ease of comparison between career opportunities and differences in location and pay.
Make sure you gear your CV towards / around the job you are actually applying for. Hey, why not Join today and start building your CV here!
Make it individualised and give examples from your degree and previous employment that makes you an ideal candidate.
We don’t always have exactly the right experience and that's OK.
Further reading for Children's Nurses on Nurses.co.uk
As a critical care nurse and YouTuber my huge focus in recent years has been on mental health.
I have always worked 12.5 hour day and night shifts in an often high responsibility and high pressure job which can be tough on our physical and mental health.
Developing better coping strategies and furthering your knowledge helps put you at ease.
Nursing ‘burnout’ is often discussed (here is a great article and video by Chloe on managing your mental health).
And finally, don’t forget to laugh... so here are 10 memes to make any student nurse grin.
Paediatric / Children's nursing offers diverse career opportunities, great job satisfaction and endless learning possibilities.
It can be challenging, sure, but rewarding and is a great career for an enthusiastic and caring team player.
If you want to know if it's right for you, try and work bank shifts as a health care assistant on a paediatric ward to get a flavour for the job and work alongside qualified children’s nurses to hear about their journey into nursing.