Your healthcare career journey: 7 steps from care assistant to nurse

As a carer or senior care assistant, you know that working in health and social care is very rewarding. And if you love giving excellent care and making a positive difference in patients’ lives, you might wonder if you can go into nursing.

The good news is that yes, lots of care assistants do go into nursing.

As a nurse, you’ll have more responsibility, you’ll work on your own more and you’ll be able to specialise. You’ll also take home a higher salary and benefit from better career opportunities. Finally, because nurses are in such high demand, you’ll have fantastic job security.

In this guide, we’ll take you through everything you need to know to go from a care assistant to a nurse.

Roles and responsibilities: care assistant to nurse

You’re already familiar with the healthcare industry and have experience in a hospital or care home environment, and you’ve probably worked with nurses a lot while on shift.

Like all care workers, nurses need to have patience and compassion for the people in their care. However, the skills nurses learn through their training prepare them to take on even more responsibilities.

Some of these can include getting patients ready for surgery, treating wounds, doing tests or procedures, giving medication, working with doctors to create care plans and talking to patients and their families about their health.

Nursing can be a difficult job both physically and emotionally. And training to go from care assistant to nurse takes years of time and effort. However, if you love to learn and are inspired to give a higher level of care, nursing is a wonderful career path.

How to become a nurse from a care assistant

The Royal College of Nursing website has a lot of helpful information for anyone thinking about becoming a nurse. And because you work in a care setting, you already have skills and knowledge you can use as a nurse.

To become a registered nurse in the NHS, you will need to complete an approved nursing diploma or degree programme. You will also need to register with the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC). You can study to become a nurse through a full-time degree programme. You may also be able to continue to work as a carer and train as a nurse part-time.

Let’s run through the seven key steps to go from carer to nurse.

1. Start at your current job

An excellent first step in going from care assistant to nurse is talking to your manager. Good managers should be supportive of your career goals. They can tell you who to speak to and may be able to help with your training.

You might also have the option of working more closely with a nurse at your current setting. This can help you better understand what it’s like to be a nurse. It will also prepare you to take on more responsibilities and help you decide if nursing is right for you.

If your setting has an education facilitator, be sure to talk to them too. They can tell you more about your options for nurse training. They can also help with your programme applications.

2. Explore different ways to earn a nursing qualification

There are many possible ways to go from care assistant to nurse. The first is by studying a full-time, three-year degree program, run by an institution approved by the NMC.

Depending on your education and work experience, you may be able to earn your degree faster. This might be through “accreditation of prior learning” (APL) or a two-year postgraduate diploma.

You can also become a nurse through an apprenticeship. This allows you to work and earn a salary while studying part-time. Talk to your manager to see if this could be an option at your current workplace. Nursing degree apprenticeships generally take four years to complete.

If you’re in England, becoming a nursing associate is another option. This is a role between a care assistant and a nurse. You will work with registered nurses and other healthcare workers to deliver care. The two-year programme prepares you to be a nursing assistant full-time or go on to a graduate-level nursing programme.

3. Research entry requirements

No matter how you choose to train, you will need to meet the programme entry requirements. These are different for different programmes and institutions. Fortunately, your current experience in a care environment will help your applications.

The NMC has a simple tool on their website to search for approved courses and institutions. You’ll also find links to learn more about their programme requirements. These often include A levels or overseas equivalents.

If you don’t have traditional academic qualifications, or if you’ve been out of education for a while, you might consider taking an Access Course to health and social care or nursing. These courses can be studied in person or online. They are designed to bring your skills up to date and help to meet the entry requirements for nursing programmes.

4. Look into funding options

You also need to think about how you’ll pay for your training. This is really important if you are taking a break from work to study full-time. Many universities offer grants or scholarships to qualified candidates. Student loans are another option to fund your nursing studies.

The NHS also offers a Learning Support Fund. If you’re eligible, you could get training grants of £5,000 per academic year. They also offer parental support of £2,000 if you have a child under 15 years old.

5. Pick a specialism

As part of your nursing studies, you will need to choose a specialism. There are four options: adult, children, learning disability, or mental health nursing. Your specialism will be an important part of your training.

Once you’ve qualified, you will have the chance to continue your training and further specialise. Other more specialist areas include critical care, cancer care or women’s health. You might also consider becoming a midwife.

Think of what you’re interested in and what you’re good at. Do you currently work in a residential home caring for people with mental health conditions? That could be a good route to build on your knowledge and experience. Or maybe you’re ready to take your career in a different direction.

Whichever specialism you choose, it doesn’t mean your career path is decided. You will always have the chance to train in another area or further specialise.

6. Register with the NMC

After you’ve completed your studies, you must register with the NMC to practise as a nurse in the UK. The process is simple and your university will help by sending your course results and personal details to the NMC. They will also send a declaration of your good health and character.

Once the NMC has received the details of your qualification, you will be asked to create an NMC Online account. This allows you to pay the registration fee and submit your application online. You will also need to tell them about any criminal convictions or police cautions.

Once you have registered, you will be expected to undertake future professional training to keep your skills up to date. Florence Academy is a good online resource for your professional development as a nurse. One course that is useful to always refresh your memory on is the First Aid course.

7. Decide where you’d like to work & begin your job search

Being a nurse gives you the chance to work in many different healthcare settings. Some options include GP practices, hospitals, residential care homes, pharmaceutical companies, charities or even the military.

Qualifying as a nurse doesn’t limit you to clinical settings. Some nurses have high-level careers in research, education and management.

The NHS Careers website is a great place for newly registered nurses to look for jobs. The Florence App, currently used by 90,000+ health and social care professionals, is also an excellent option for nurses looking to pick up shifts.

A rewarding path

Nursing is a demanding but very rewarding profession. If you are inspired by helping others, have a strong desire to learn and can work under pressure, then going from care assistant to nurse could be the perfect next step in your career.

At Florence, we’re dedicated to supporting the work-life balance and professional development of health and social care workers. Find out more and sign up today.

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