Get Into: Nursing

Nurses are truly the ‘glue’ that holds the NHS together. They are usually at the very front of what we call ‘frontline services’ and will meet all manner of patients with all manner of issues.

Nurses are the largest group of staff in the NHS and work in every sort of health setting from accident and emergency to patients’ homes, with people of all ages and backgrounds. Our focus this month is on mental health and midwifery.

The days when nursing was almost an exclusively female preserve are gone but women, unsurprisingly, are still drawn to the role. Nursing offers a challenging and varied role, even within a particular specialism and whether you’re female or male the pre-requisites of a caring attitude and a commitment to getting the job done are a good starting point.

Mental Health

Issues concerning mental health have been all over the news headlines of late. The tragic case of Germanwings airline pilot, Andreas Lubitz apparently committing suicide and killing his passengers has highlighted the issues of workplace mental health issues as have figures that suggest that suicide is the biggest killer of men under the age of 50 in the UK. Mental health is an issue that isn’t going to go away.

Nurses with a mental health remit need to be excellent communicators and of course, communication is all about thinking, digesting and responding to other people. Whilst both men and women can be skilled in this area, it is often cited that there are differences in the way women and men think and therefore how they communicate. Not only that but the physical differences and our instincts might also give women a slight advantage when dealing with emotional matters.

Chairman of International Communications Agency, AB, Tim Buckley, recently told the Institute of Internal Communication in an interview that “There is also an additional, non-threatening, side that women can present which can mean people open up to them more than some men”. If this is true, it may be that women that can combine the communication skills and gentle courage needed to discuss difficult subjects might be ideally suited to a career in mental health.

Mental health nurses work in hospitals and the community to support people with a range of mental health issues. They aim to build good relationships with clients and their families and have to be sympathetic and non-judgmental, gaining a patient’s trust in order to manage emotional situations and find solutions together.

As Service-leavers will know, the role of an Army officer is as much about communication and management as it is about anything else. With this in mind, you may already have an excellent set of credentials.

Entry requirements

To work as a mental health nurse, you will need to complete a Nursing and Midwifery Council approved degree in nursing.

The future

Leading mental health charity, Mind, is amongst many organisations currently campaigning for better monitoring of mental health and more spending and investment. The ‘We Need to Talk’ coalition which includes Mind, says that huge variations in referral rates and waiting times around the country are unacceptable and are making people more unwell. It is calling on the next government to make access to talking therapies an immediate priority after the election.



The two essential routes to becoming a midwife are either, firstly to complete an approved degree in midwifery or for people with existing nursing qualifications to take on a midwifery short programme. (This could be ideal for nurses leaving the Armed Forces that are looking to move into a new area of nursing.) Both avenues lead to registration with the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) allowing them to practice as a midwife.

Again, tradition marks midwifery as a female profession with current figures suggesting that 76% of midwives in the UK are female. Indeed, there will be some expectant women that will feel uncomfortable being treated by male practitioners – but this happens in all areas of medicine.

The degree in midwifery is based on academic study and supervised professional practice, usually taking place in both community and hospital settings and usually takes three years to complete (on a full-time basis).

The midwifery short programme can be tackled over a minimum of 78 weeks (full-time) with some universities offering part-time schedules. Once qualified, it is necessary to keep yourself up to date with health care issues and practice (just as it is in other sectors within healthcare). This is a requirement of the NMC and encouraged by employers.

Most fields of nursing are based on the same core values of compassion and relationship building. It goes without saying that giving birth can be a highly emotional and intense experience. The midwife needs to manage patients that are likely to be experiencing a mixture of worry about the birth process as well as excitement at the prospect of the imminent arrival of a baby. Then, of course, they’ll have to deal with any physical symptoms as and when they occur. Trust between patient and midwife is an essential component.

Growth area

The number of midwives is set to increase in an attempt by the NHS to keep pace with demand. There is currently a shortage of around 2,000 midwives, perhaps led by a movement amongst pregnant women to request home births – although around nine in every 10 births in the UK take place in hospital. Employers have cited skills shortages in the area of midwifery as accounting for around 33% of all vacancies, meaning that re-training as a midwife could be both a highly satisfying and solid career move.


NHS Careers 
Tel: 0345 60 60 655

Nursing and Midwifery Council
Tel: 020 7333 9333


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