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How to become a nursery nurse

Love children? Patient and caring with a fun and playful side? Nursery nursing could make an exciting and rewarding career path for you.

Nursery nurses make sure young children grow up happy, healthy and able to flourish as they develop into adults. In this article, we explore what the job involves, if it’s for you, and how to become a nursery nurse.

'Love children? Patient, caring - and fun?! Nursery nursing could make the perfect career'

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What is a nursery nurse?

Nursery nurses' duties include helping children

develop through play in the nursery

Nursery nurses work with children aged 0 to 8 years and their parents or guardians. It’s their job to make sure children grow up safe, happy and in an environment which nurtures healthy development. Community nursery nurses are based at health centres, visiting families in the local area. Others do most of their work in the nursery or even in hospitals.

Day-to-day tasks you might carry out include:

  • Assessing children’s development and raising concerns about their health or well-being with other health workers, such as doctors or health visitors.
  • Making sure children are living in a safe and nurturing environment and referring any concerns to colleagues in health or social services.
  • Helping parents and guardians understand their children’s needs, giving advice on parenting practices such as providing a healthy diet and encouraging learning.
  • Using play to help children learn and develop.
  • Setting up and running nursery sessions for parents with young children.
  • Coming up with techniques for stimulating children with special or sensory needs.
  • Keeping detailed and thorough records on the families they are working with.

As you progress, duties could also include:

  • Supervising other staff, such as nursery assistants and trainees.
  • Putting together nursery or play programmes for parents and carers.
  • Coming up with campaigns to promote good parenting.

Now let's take a look at how to become a nursery nurse...

What skills do you need to become a nursery nurse?

As you may have twigged by now, a love of children is pretty crucial if you want to become a nursery nurse. But that's not all there is to it. Nursery nurses must display a wide range of very different skills:

  • Nursery nurses need great people skills plus the

    ability to talk to people from a range of backgrounds

    A caring nature, as well as a sense of fun.
  • Creativity - you may have to come up with fun and effective nursery sessions, programmes and campaigns.
  • Good observational skills, so you can spot health and development concerns, as well as the signs of neglect or abuse.
  • Problem-solving skills, in order to tackle concerns in the most effective and sensitive way.
  • The ability to act on your initiative.
  • Excellent people and verbal communication skills in order to deal with parents and guardians, as well as colleagues across health and social care.
  • Good written communication skills for clear record keeping.
  • Well-organised with excellent time management, as you'll often need to manage your own workload.
  • A tolerant nature and awareness of the needs of families from different social and religious backgrounds.
  • A self-reflective nature with an awareness of your limitations.
  • An awareness of health and safety, and “safeguarding” (protecting children from abuse or neglect).

What qualifications do I need?

Some nursery nurses start out as nursery assistants and train on the job. You don’t need any qualifications to be a nursery assistant, although professional or personal experience of childcare will be a big help.

More experienced nursery nurses often supervise

colleagues as well as working with children

Nursery nurses need at least a level 3 qualification in childcare or early years. Popular qualifications include the CACHE diploma in childcare and education, or the national diploma in children’s play, but other vocational qualifications are available. Courses are available full time, usually over two years, and you may also be able to study part time while working.

To study for a level 3 qualification, you will need English and maths GCSEs at grade C+/4+. If you don’t have these GCSEs, you may be able to do a functional skills course before beginning your course.

Nursery nursing apprenticeships are available at the advanced level (equivalent to two A-levels), but we weren’t able to find any on the government’s Find An Apprenticeship service.

Other qualifications

  • First-aid training will help you deal with any medical emergencies at nursery.
  • A driving licence and access to a car is essential if you want to be a community nursery nurse, as you will need to travel around visiting families at home.

Since you will be working with children, you’ll need to have a DBS (Disclosure Barring Service) check, which makes sure you don’t have any criminal convictions which could stop you from working with children.

How much do nursery nurses get paid?

In 2017, a qualified nursery nurse will start on £16,900 (full time), according to NHS Careers.

A full-time week will be around 37.5 hours, with the possibility of some early morning starts and late finishes. You may be able to work part time.

Now you know how to become a nursery nurse, check out our guide to childcare apprenticeships to find out about other ways you could work with children straight from school or college.

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Image credits

Lead image via Pixabay

Nursery nurse with young child via Flickr

Nursery nurse with parents via US Government

Older nursery nurse via Flickr