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It is every nurse's dream to see their hard work rewarded with a promotion. Sometimes though, knowing what is needed for you to progress through the nursing bands can be one of the most confusing things about your job.

Gone are the days when simply ‘getting on with the job’ resulted in career progression as managers and matrons want to see an employee push themselves across professional development and attitude advancement.

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To work as a nurse in the NHS, you must hold an approved degree in nursing which allows you to register with the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC). You can start your career at various levels, and be assured of practical and possibly financial support as you progress.

In this blog, we show you how to kick-start your career in healthcare, progress to the level of newly qualified or entry-level nurse at band five on the NHS pay scale, and share our top tips to help you get promoted through the NHS nursing bands all the way up to 7 and 8!

Kick-starting your nursing career through the NHS pay bands

Nurses form the largest group of staff in the NHS and are a crucial part of the healthcare team. Some nurses begin their career in support roles, which require no set of qualifications to begin with and go on to do a registered nursing degree, which qualifies them to work as a nurse. Others apply straight to university to undertake their studies. Whatever route you take, you’ll need to gain a degree in nursing, during which the NHS will support you financially.

You can start your career at various levels, and be assured of practical support as you progress. According to Health Careers NHS, below are just some of the opportunities for you to pave the way towards kick-starting your career as a newly qualified nurse:

  • Work placements and volunteering

  • Healthcare Assistant

  • Cadet schemes and apprenticeships

  • Professional training

  • Full-time degree

  • Part-time degrees

  • Foundation degree

  • Accelerated diplomas

Nursing Bands Explained

Transitioning from student to newly qualified nurse at band 5

Upon completing your qualification, you will need to take steps to register with the regulatory body for the nursing profession you have chosen to pursue. Newly qualified nurses will typically start at band 5, where they are often trained by experienced members of staff in what is known as a Preceptorship. In most cases you should have a named mentor who is your first point of contact for support and who will be able to provide honest feedback on both your progress and areas for improvement.

What will be expected:

  • In a busy environment being organised is very important. Prioritise what you need to do at the start of each shift

  • Clinical judgement and decision making takes time and confidence. Admit to mistakes and reflect on how you could do better next time. Always remember that patient safety comes first

  • You must work within the limits of your competence. If you’re questioned about why

  • You did something a certain way, make sure you can refer to the guidelines you followed. These may be legal, for example Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) guidelines on medicine management, or evidence-based guidance on the treatment and management of conditions, or local trust/employer procedures

  • Unlike the structured learning of your course, responsibility for your continuing professional development (CPD) is yours. Always keep your e-portfolio up to date

It takes on average 18 months for a nurse to amass the necessary job experience to be considered for a band six position.

During this time, nurses must prove they are capable of safely practicing the extra senior duties necessary to thrive in the role. These include taking bloods from patients of all ages and carrying out, monitoring and translating ECGs.

You should attend and complete - or at least be in the process of finishing - a series of courses designed to expand your medical knowledge. There are a vast number of subjects available to study but every nurse should concentrate on the following: 

  • Myocardial Infarction (Heart attacks)

  • CVA (Strokes)

  • COPD (Emphysema and chronic bronchitis)

Unfortunately not all of these courses are free to enrol. Although your trust will entirely fund your entry to some of the essential courses, you might have to spend part of or the entire fee needed for other training programs depending on whether another NHS trust will fund your additional learning or not. Costs range between £800 to the lower thousands.

The speed of which you take these courses directly correlates to the speed of your career progression.

NHS Banding 7 to 8

To progress to bands seven and eight, nurses must demonstrate the ability to manage a team of varying numbers as well as exhibit a grasp on finance.

Ward managers at 'B7' must learn and master the running costs of maintaining a ward’s functionality. Matrons at 'B8' are granted overall control over three to four individual wards or units and are responsible for delegating to individual managers their budgets and objectives.

To advance your chances of reaching these senior and managerial positions, offer to take on every position of responsibility you are confident in doing. Take the chance of being a linked nurse for a specific role e.g. incontinence when you can. This will provide you with vital expertise in how to succeed in positions of trust and improve your colleague communication skills.

Taking on a new role or responsibility will always give you new skills and experiences, more information about the company, and a bigger network of colleagues who will vouch for your willingness to progress.

Looking to further your career as a nurse?

Search Healthcare is a specialist in not only sourcing and placing nursing jobs but also guiding our workers through some of the most important issues surrounding the profession. If you have any questions regarding progressing through NHS bands please contact a member of the Search Healthcare team in your nearest office. Alternatively, you can find our comprehensive list of vacancies below!

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