Children's nurse

A career as a children’s nurse could be perfect for you if you have experience of working with and enjoy caring for children.

In NHSScotland, registered children’s nurses can work in a diverse range of environments within and out-with the hospital setting including in the community, schools, maternity and neonatal units.

Children’s nurses care for patients ranging from newborn babies to adolescents up to the age of 16 with a wide range of conditions. They work closely with parents and carers, supporting them, when the child they care for is ill or injured.


The most important thing is having the ability to care. Being compassionate, being able to empathise with the person you’re directly performing care with. And also considering the wider determinant, you need to have an understanding of how things impact families, how things impact somebody’s entire life.

It’s people just saying to you, “thank you”, I would never have been able to do it without you. And while that’s not necessarily important to me, it’s important to them, to know that you made a difference in their lives.

If you worked in a bank, or if you worked in another organisation, then things may well be very similar. But in nursing, no two days are the same. That was probably one of the biggest draws into the profession.

Children and young people, to me, are our future. Not only here locally, but right across Scotland. They’re out future, and we need to make sure they’re healthy and they have the emotional health and wellbeing.

It’s an immense privilege to look after someone in their own home. You’re a visitor in their own home, but you very quickly become part of their life, while they’re living through whatever ordeal they’re going through. And this allows you to assist them in any way, act as an advocate, signpost to help, and deliver the best care that you can provide at the right time.

In most nursing jobs, you don’t stop learning. There’s always going to be something new, there’s always going to be a new piece of equipment, or a new procedure or a new method of giving care to patients.

I always say a smile goes a long, long way and I think it’s really important we remember sometimes it’s the simplest things you do for people that make a difference.

The Role(s)

Children’s nursing can be both hugely rewarding and one of the most emotionally challenging areas of nursing to work in. Children’s nurses provide comfort and reassurance to children and their families in difficult or stressful circumstances.

Babies and children react to illness and medication differently to adults. Children’s nurses therefore need specialist knowledge, skills and experience in order to care for them when they are ill or injured and receiving treatment.

The ability to communicate well with children is an essential part of the job, to help them understand what’s happening while they are in hospital. Children’s nurses must gather information by assessing patient needs. They must also monitor and interpret patient behaviour and reactions during treatment, to identify any deterioration in the child’s health.

Children’s nurses will work with doctors, other nurses and allied health professionals as part of a multi-disciplinary team. Some nurses also work in the community with non-clinical professionals, such as social workers, voluntary sector workers and those who help care for patients at home.

Skills, Interests and Abilities

To become a children’s nurse, useful skills include:

  • A good levels of physical fitness
  • the ability to work in a team environment
  • confidence
  • tact
  • strong oral and written communication skills
  • a professional attitude to work

 As a children's nurse, you will need to be:

  • patient and understanding
  • being compassionate and sensitive
  • 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.

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 a children’s 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.

All nursing roles, along with rates of pay, are outlined in a national document – the Career Framework for Health.

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 children's nurse, there are a wide variety of specialisms to choose from, including: neonatal, surgical nursing, medical nursing, cancer and palliative care, community nursing and transplant coordination. You might also be interested in specialising as a Play Therapist. There are also opportunities to move into management.


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

Professional Bodies

Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC)

The Nursing and Midwifery Council is the governing body for nurses and midwives, ensuring their knowledge and skills are up to date. 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.