To qualify as a nurse you need an undergraduate degree (BSc) in nursing with registration as a nurse in your chosen field of practice (e.g. adult nursing, mental health nursing or children’s nursing). To become a senior nurse you will also usually need at least two years’ post-qualification experience.
Some senior nurses will also have undertaken relevant further study, such as postgraduate courses in mentorship (supporting and assessing the learning of students in practice) or advanced assessment.
As well as these qualifications, working as a nurse at a senior level requires a level of quiet confidence. Things can be hectic on the ward and you need to be able to see the bigger picture and reassure people that everything is ok.
You also need to be organised, confident, articulate and knowledgeable, as well as being a good listener, flexible, authoritative and compassionate.
At more senior levels, employers are often looking for nurses with a combination of advanced clinical skills, management and training experience, alongside the ability to undertake audit and research projects. Having this combination of skills can enable you to develop a rich and varied career as a senior nurse.
The fact that nurses are needed everywhere in the world means there are many opportunities to work worldwide, giving you the chance to get to know different health systems and cultures.
There are also many opportunities to specialise in different areas of nursing, such as neurological conditions like stroke. Becoming a specialist in a particular clinical area means you can quickly develop advanced skills, giving you the opportunity to work more autonomously and with patients with complex needs.
Getting work experience in a hospital in any capacity will give you the chance to see what nurses do on a daily basis and help you get a more realistic understanding of what the role involves.
It’s also helpful to attend university open days where you can speak to current nursing students about their study and placement experience.
You can also find useful information on the Student Nurse online forum.