Adult Nurse

In NHSScotland, Adult Nurses work in a variety of healthcare settings with patients aged over 16 and their families.

Adult Nurses help people to cope with all aspects of illness, treatment and recovery by assessing their needs, devising care plans and monitoring progress during treatment.

The Role(s)

Adult Nurses have a vital role in helping patients and their families understand information about their diagnoses, treatment, and health more generally. They must also learn how to respond to each patient’s physical, clinical and emotional needs. Person-centred, safe and effective care is at the core of this role.

Adult Nurses can work in hospital wards, clinics, GP surgeries, in people's homes, as NHS24 Nurse Advisors, in the military, in workplaces, and in research or education.

Most Adult Nurses are at the centre of a multi-disciplinary team and will be educated to carry out different types of clinical procedures. As an Adult Nurse, you will learn to:

  • undertake physical examinations and clinical assessments
  • observe and record the clinical condition of patients
  • give medications and injections
  • respond quickly to emergencies
  • act as an advocate for patients and their families.
  • support people with their wider nutritional, physical, hygiene and emotional needs

Depending upon the focus of your role, you may go on to develop a number of specific skills in surgical and medical care, or perhaps develop a focus on community or palliative care.

Some Nurses also work in the community with non-healthcare professionals, such as Social Workers and Carers to help patients manage their long-term care needs at home.

Skills, Interests and Abilities

To become an Adult Nurse, useful skills include:

  • good level of physical fitness
  • the ability to work as part of a team
  • confidence
  • tact and discretion
  • good oral and written communication skills

 As an Adult Nurse, you’ll need to be:

  • patient and understanding
  • compassionate and sensitive
  • able to review clinical information and make decisions on care
  • able to remain calm under pressure

Entry Requirements

All Nurses working in NHSScotland must be registered with the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC), once they have graduated from an approved educational institution. In Scotland, the list of NMC approved educational institutions includes:

The minimum academic entry requirements for Nursing degrees vary, but most universities in Scotland require SQA Higher BBC grades, including English and a science subject. A pass in National 5 English and Maths grade A - C is also required if these subjects are not achieved at SQA Higher grade.

Specific entry requirements, including other accepted qualifications, are provided on each university website. To apply for a nursing programme you must use the UCAS application process.

You can visit the NMC website for a full list of approved educational institutions and Nursing programmes across the UK.

Scottish Wider Access Programme (SWAP) – Nursing (SCQF Level 6)

This programme is for adults returning to education, perhaps changing career or seeking to gain the equivalent university entry qualifications needed for Nursing. There are no formal entry qualifications, but applicants should have a good standard of general education and have been away from formal education for a minimum of 2 – 3 years.

Successful completion of the course could lead to:

  • A degree in nursing by applying to universities that participate in the SWAP partnership programme
  • Entry to an HNC Social Care course
  • Entry to an HNC Additional Support Needs course
  • Entry to an HNC Care course

Please visit the Scottish Wider Access Programme (SWAP) website for more information.

Nursing Support Workers

If you are an experienced Nursing Support Worker, there may be opportunities for you to apply for fully funded routes to degree level Nursing and become a registered Staff Nurse.

Protecting Vulnerable Groups (PVG) background checks

To work as a Nurse in NHSScotland, you will be subject to occupational health checks and background checks, such as the Protecting Vulnerable Groups (PVG) scheme.

Modern Apprenticeships

Modern Apprenticeships offer those aged over 16 paid employment with the opportunity to train for jobs at craft, technician and management level.

The Modern Apprenticeship in Healthcare Support (clinical) at SCQF Level 6 and SCQF Level 7 is a framework for people interested in working in a clinical healthcare setting.

For more information about this Modern Apprenticeship framework, look at:

Contact your local NHSScotland board to find out if this Modern Apprenticeship is available in your area.

Learning and Development

Once registered as an Adult Nurse, there are on-going requirements for education and skills development and a host of opportunities to go further and learn more. During your first year as a newly qualified Nurse, you'll get extra support and guidance through the Flying Start programme.

A registered Nurse enters the profession as a ‘Level 5 Practitioner.’ They can choose to stay at that level, keeping up-to-date through Continuing Professional Development (CPD) or undertake further learning and development, both in the workplace and through courses. This can lead to progression through the career pathway to Senior, Advanced or Consultant level.

Nurses at all levels need to show strong clinical leadership. Students and healthcare support workers look to staff Nurses for guidance and support, while at higher levels Nurses may lead teams, departments or services. This leadership role includes motivating and empowering staff to treat all patients with dignity, privacy and compassion and taking responsibility for ensuring excellence in clinical care.

Senior Nurses bring key knowledge and skills to specialist and multidisciplinary teams, while Nurse Consultants lead whole departments and services, informing practice and policy development at regional and national levels.

Once you've qualified and gained experience as a registered Adult Nurse, there are a wide variety of specialisms to choose from, including: District Nurse, General Practice Nurse, Rehabilitation Nurse, Older People's Nurse, Accident and Emergency Nurse, Intensive Care Nurse, Theatre Nurse, Cancer and Palliative Care Nurse, Community Staff Nurse and Occupational Health Nurse.


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

The requirements for revalidation are:

  • 450 practice hours
  • 35 hours of CPD including 20 hours of participatory learning
  • Five pieces of practice-related feedback
  • Five written reflective accounts
  • Reflective discussion
  • Health and character declaration
  • Professional indemnity arrangement
  • Confirmation

Revalidation is an ongoing process throughout your career and aims to promote good practice and to maintain and strengthen public confidence in the profession.

Professional Bodies

Find out more information from these professional and regulatory bodies:

Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC)

The Nursing and Midwifery Council is the governing body for Nurses and midwives, and exists to protect the public. The NMC also make sure that nurses and midwives keep their knowledge and skills up-to-date through revalidation.  Registered Nurses must renew their professional registration with the Nursing and Midwifery Council every three years.

The NMC website also contains information about registration, training and professional standards for Nurses and Midwives in Scotland and the rest of the UK.

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN)

The Royal College of Nursing is a professional body and Trade Union which represents Nurses and Nursing. It seeks to promote excellence in practice and to shape health policies. Find out more on the RCN website.