Pathways to a Career in Nursing

24 May 2024


At the very heart of healthcare are Nurses: specially trained professionals who provide their patients with essential care and support. But how do you become a Nurse in Ireland and what career opportunities are there? We’re here to help – so whether you’ve always felt nursing is your vocation or you’re interested in knowing more, here’s all the information you need.

The Role of the Nurse

Nurses provide care for patients 24/7 in many different settings, supporting people with illnesses, injuries, physical disabilities, and mental health conditions. Working in hospitals, clinics, nursing homes and the community, Nurses care for people at different life stages – from newborn babies to the elderly. They carry out treatment plans, help them with day-to-day living activities and advocate for patients.

Examples of a Nurse’s responsibilities are: assessing, planning, implementing and evaluating care for patients, monitoring and recording patients’ vital signs, administering medicines and injections, updating patient records, helping patients manage their illness, collaborating with other healthcare professionals and helping Doctors carry out surgery and medical procedures.

The Different Strands of Nursing

In Ireland, there are FOUR different Nursing disciplines. Each has its own third level education programme focusing on a particular area of nursing and leading to a specific registration:

- General Nursing
- Children’s and General Nursing
- Intellectual Disability Nursing
- Mental Health Nursing

You can find out more about the different disciplines here.

How To Become a Nurse

You will need to complete a programme of education that is approved by the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Ireland (NMBI). There are 45 of these Level 8 degree programmes offered by 13 Higher Education Institutions, in association with main healthcare agencies (hospitals/clinics). You will also need to be registered with NMBI. You can check out available courses/colleges here.

The Qualities of a Good Nurse

Nurses need to be caring and compassionate with empathy, a sense of humour and resilience. Excellent communications skills are important as are organisation, attention to detail, problem-solving skills and stamina, and Nurses must be committed to patient advocacy.

How To Apply

You can apply for a Level 8 degree in Nursing in several different ways:

- Applying with Your Leaving Certificate

If you are leaving school having completed your Leaving Certificate, you will need to apply to the Central Applications Office (CAO). You must have Grade H5 in two papers and Grade O6/H7 in four papers in the following subjects: Irish or English, Mathematics, a Laboratory Science (Biology, Physics, Chemistry, Physics and Chemistry or Agricultural Science) and three other subjects. CAO points may vary according to demand for courses and across different colleges.

- Applying with a FETAC Qualification

Rather than using your Leaving Certificate for entry, you can apply to study nursing at college if you have completed any of these specific National Framework of Qualification (NFQ) Level 5 courses: Nursing Studies, Healthcare Support, Community Health Services, Health Service Skills. Find out more here

- Applying as a Mature Student

If you are 23 years of age or over, you can apply for a nursing degree as a mature student. You will have to achieve minimum scores in three online assessment tests: verbal reasoning, numeracy, job simulation. To take this route you must complete an application to the CAO and use a valid CAO number to register for the tests.

Other pathways to study include the Higher Education Access Route (HEAR) for Leaving Cert students from under-represented economic and social backgrounds, as well as the Disability Access Route (DARE).

What To Expect From Your Studies

Your four-year nursing degree will combine theory and practice, with up to 100 weeks on placement in various clinical settings over the course of your studies. The subjects you study will depend on your course and can include Pharmacology for Nursing Practice and Healthcare; Nursing Ethics; Communication and Interpersonal Skills; and Management and Team Working.

Nursing Career Opportunities

As well as working as a Registered General Nurse (RGN), there are so many nursing specialisms to consider (be sure to research these before you begin your studies). Here’s a quick look at some of them:

- Emergency Nurse

This is high-pressure care where Nurses provide acute and emergency care in settings such as hospital emergency departments, minor injury units and ambulance services.

- Registered Children’s/Paediatric Nurse (RCN)

Providing care for children of diverse abilities, ethnicities, backgrounds and ages from birth to 16 years.

- Theatre/Perioperative Nurse

These specialised Nurses assist throughout the various stages of operations – and roles include Scrub Nurse, Anaesthetic Nurse and Recovery Nurse. Some Nurses go on to become skilled Surgical Care Practitioners.

- Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS) or Clinical Midwife Specialist (CMS)

These are Registered Nurses or Midwives who have developed specially focused knowledge and skills to work in a defined area or specialty.

- Oncology Nurse

These Nurses provide care to patients in the Oncology department who require specific treatment such as chemotherapy.

- Public Health Nurse (PHNs)

A PHN is a registered nurse with a specialist nursing qualification and who provides core nursing and midwifery care in the community.

- Mental Health Psychiatric Nurse (RPN)

RPNs work with people who are experiencing mental health challenges, to aid their recovery and independence. They may work in hospitals, in addiction services, within the community and as part of a team which includes Doctors, Social Care Workers, Therapists and Psychiatrists.

- Intellectual Disability Nurse (RNID)

RNIDs provide supportive care to children, adolescents and adults with disabilities, and their families – working in settings such as people’s homes, education and community settings, residential and respite services.

You can find out more about different Nursing specialties here.

Talk to Us Today

At TTM we place Nurses on a Temporary, Contract and Permanent basis and across all healthcare settings. We have Tier One status with the HSE for the provision of agency Nurses nationwide which means our Nurses have access to the best jobs and shifts as they are available. We are also the largest nursing recruitment agency in Ireland for private and voluntary organisations.

Search our open nursing opportunities here

Pathways to a Career in Nursing