Nursing and midwifery

Nurses and midwives form the largest group of staff in Health and Social Care and are a crucial part of the healthcare team. They work in every sort of health setting, from accident and emergency to working in patients' homes, with people of all ages and backgrounds.

Nurse

There are a number of careers in different areas of nursing including adult, children’s and mental health.

Adult nursing

Adult nursing involves working with adults with many different health conditions. These nurses use their skills to improve the quality of patients' lives, sometimes in difficult situations. Work may be based in hospital wards, clinics or, increasingly, community settings.

To become a nurse, you need to value and respect the privacy and dignity of those in your care.

Mental health nursing

With an increase in metal health problems, mental health nursing has become a varied profession. The key role and challenge is to form therapeutic relationships with mentally ill people and their families.

Most mentally ill people are not cared for in hospital but in the community. You might be based in a community health care centre, day hospital and outpatients department or specialist unit.

You will need to have a good understanding of the theories of mental health and illness. As a nurse working in mental health you would work as part of a team which includes GPs, psychologists, social workers, psychiatrists and occupational therapists.

Children's nursing

include babies born with heart complications, teenagers who have sustained broken limbs, and child protection issues.

The work includes promoting health and development, as well as meeting the needs of those who suffer from acute or long term illness. Family-centred care is provided in hospital, day care centres, child health clinics and in the child's home.

Like other branches of nursing, care is becoming more community-based.

For all areas of nursing you may do shift work to provide 24-hour care.

Skills required for nursing

To become a nurse, you should:

  • want to help people
  • be practical
  • have good time management skills
  • have an ability to get on well with people from a wide range of backgrounds
  • have good emotional/ mental strength
  • have good observational skills
  • have the ability to act on your own initiative
  • be willing to take responsibility
  • be able to stay calm in stressful situations
  • have a mature approach

Training programmes for nursing

The following degrees are available in Northern Ireland:

  • BSc Hons / Diploma Nursing Science at Queen's University Belfast
  • BSc Nursing (Adult) and BSc Hons Nursing (Mental Health) at Ulster University

They include three years full-time study with a one-year common foundation programme, followed by a two-year branch programme in one of the above specialities. Students are placed in hospital and community settings throughout the three years of the course.

Contact the universities directly for the latest information on entry requirements.

Career pathway for nursing

You may go on to lead a nursing team, become a nurse consultant or develop new approaches to nursing care.

For those who are qualified adult nurses and who are registered to practise the following career pathways are available:

District nurse

District nurses visit people in their own homes or in residential care homes, providing care for patients and supporting family members.

As well as providing direct patient care, district nurses also have a teaching role, working with patients to enable them to care for themselves or with family members teaching them how to give care to their relatives.

Health visitor

The role of the health visitor is about the promotion of health and the prevention of illness in all age groups. As a health visitor, you will carry out a wide range of work. You may be working with mothers of young babies, advising on things like:

  • feeding
  • safety
  • physical and emotional development
  • other aspects of health and childcare

You might also work with people of any age who suffer from a chronic illness or live with a disability. Your role here will include helping them to overcome problems they may face in coping with their illness or disability.

Midwife

Pregnancy and birth are major events in the life of a woman and her family. Midwives provide care for women throughout the pregnancy and childbirth and are the lead health professional for those women whose pregnancies are uncomplicated.

Midwives work as part of a team of healthcare professionals including GPs, health visitors and social workers.

The midwife’s role is very diverse. Their work includes:

  • carrying out clinical care
  • providing health education
  • supporting the mother and her family throughout the childbearing process

This involves antenatal education, preparation for parenthood and extends to certain areas of gynaecology, family planning and childcare.

A midwife may work in hospitals, clinics, health units, community settings and midwifery units.

Skills required to be a midwife

There are many personal qualities and skills needed to be a midwife, including:

  • an understanding and caring attitude
  • an ability to get on well with people from a wide range of backgrounds
  • emotional and mental strength
  • good observation
  • an ability to act on own initiative
  • patience
  • maturity
  • willingness to take responsibility
  • an ability to cope with distressing situations and to remain calm in stressful situations

Counselling, listening and general communication skills are also essential. Many mothers, especially new ones, will need advice and support. You also have to be aware of the social and cultural context in which childbirth takes place.

Midwifery training programme

Queen’s University Belfast offers a BSc (Hons)/ Diploma in Midwifery Sciences, a three-year course leading to a degree or diploma.

Practice placements are provided in maternity units. An 18-month pre-registration midwifery course is available for registered nurses.

Applicants are interviewed to access their suitability for midwifery training and are also required to undergo an Occupational Health Assessment and an Access NI disclosure check.

You should contact the university directly for the latest information on entry requirements.

Career pathway for midwives

Career prospects are excellent. Most newly-qualified midwives move quickly to permanent posts within Health and Social Care with potential to progress to posts that influence and shape the future of midwifery and maternity care.

There are opportunities to progress to areas such as clinical specialist, consultant midwife, a practice development role, quality assurance, or management. Some midwives prefer to pursue an academic career in education and research.

Midwives have developed innovative specialist roles, for example in ultrasound, foetal medicine, intensive care neonatal units, public health and parenting education.

Professional recognition

In order to practise in the UK, all nurses and midwives must register with the professional regulator, the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC).

The Northern Ireland Practice and Education Council (NIPEC) aims to improve the quality of health and care by supporting the practice, education and performance of nurses and midwives throughout their careers.

Healthcare assistant

Healthcare assistants are also known as clinical support workers, therapy assistants and nursing auxiliaries. They support the work of nurses or allied health professionals such as occupational therapists and radiographers.

Healthcare assistants assist with treatment and looking after patients’ comfort and well-being. They are employed in different areas including hospital and community settings, mental health services, children’s services and learning disability.

The exact role will depend on the area in which you work. For example, therapy assistants in physiotherapy might show patients how to use mobility aids and work on exercises with them.

On wards, nursing auxiliaries support nursing care by taking patients’ temperatures, pulse and respiration. They also help with washing, feeding and generally assisting with a patient’s overall comfort.

Healthcare assistants should have:

  • a desire to help people
  • an ability to get on with and communicate with people from a wide range of backgrounds
  • a calm, mature approach
  • the ability to work as part of a team

Training programme for healthcare assistants

The NVQ level 2 Care award focuses on person enabled care, promoting individual independence. It also covers direct care delivery to patients.

The majority of students will complete the course within three to six months.

While there are no national minimum requirements you will normally be expected to have either:

  • two GCSEs grades A to C in Maths and English
  • six months experience (either personal or through work) of providing the full range of personal care tasks
  • the equivalent of an NVQ2 care award and be able to demonstrate an aptitude for this type of work

Career pathway of a healthcare assistant

Healthcare Assistants and Auxiliary Nurses may have the opportunity to obtain a relevant NVQ Level 2 or Level 3 qualification. Often, getting NVQ 2 will lead to having more responsibility in terms of the role you are fulfilling.

You should apply directly to the Health and Social Care Trust that has advertised the position in local press or Job Centres.

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