How to become an A&E nurse in the UK

What is an A&E nurse?

An accident and emergency nurse (A&E nurse) works in the high pressure environment of an emergency department in a hospital. To become an A&E nurse you will be a registered nurse who has completed preceptorship and has achieved the Level 1 competencies. 

The A&E nurse will often be the first person on the medical team the patient sees. Usually the nurse will pre-assess the patient by taking their vital signs and judging the urgency, so that those with the most serious conditions are seen first. 

A&E departments are naturally noisy and unpredictable places, but a well trained A&E nurse will be able to provide routine, order and discipline to their multiple tasks and will become experienced in defusing situations when patients become disorderly and disruptive.  

Find out more about what A&E nurses do in our blog post here.

Why do you want to be an A&E nurse?

An A&E department is a stressful and hectic environment, and this is a challenge you may want to take on —  or avoid —  depending on the type of nursing work you want to do. People choose to go into nursing because they want to help people and A&E is a powerful place to see this in action — you will be on the frontline of the hospital, helping to save the lives of those needing urgent care. 

Some nurses work in an A&E department for a few years before moving on; it is a great location for keeping your nursing mind sharp as you work against the clock. You will also have the opportunity to assess patients with a huge variety of injuries and health problems which builds on your nursing experience and medical knowledge quickly. 

There are many benefits to working as an A&E nurse, including: 

  • The work will help you to develop your skills and become well-rounded and confident
  • A&E nurses are constantly in demand, so there are many job opportunities 
  • You will assess and treat a large variety of injuries and ailments 
  • The job can be immensely rewarding when you see lives saved and patients recover 
  • There are constant opportunities to learn and develop

What are the steps to becoming an A&E nurse?

Step 1 — A&E Nurse Training

To become an A&E nurse, a nursing degree is compulsory in one of the four main nursing areas: 

  • Adult
  • Children
  • Learning disabilities
  • Mental health 

Many universities offer nursing degrees and will each have set requirements. The average requirements are two or three A Levels (or the equivalent qualifications) and some require specific subjects such as biology. You must also be a registered nurse with the Nursing and Midwifery Council, and keep up your professional development.

There are also nursing degree apprenticeships available, which are a mixture of fixed placement and classroom learning. 

Step 2 — Trainee Nurse Placements

Trainee placements for A&E nurses are essential for learning from real life situations and experiencing the buzz of an A&E department firsthand. 

The placement in an A&E department will allow you to see a huge variety of urgent conditions and injuries to add to your experience and inspire your own further research. You will also gain experience in numerous practical nursing tasks and you will be able to help with life support. 

However, A&E nurses will also have several years of experience working in other departments, gaining key nursing skills in a slower paced environment. Experience working in interdepartmental teams, in intensive care or management experience will all be useful when working in A&E.

Placements are challenging, but you will learn so much. Don’t be afraid to ask questions; staff will expect you to. Learning how to communicate with staff and patients in an emergency environment will be a key skill that you will gain from a placement. 

Step 3 — Searching for different roles

Becoming an A&E nurse is a dream job for many nurses because it offers a chance to nurse on the frontline of the hospital, which can be both challenging and rewarding. But the excitement of the thought of a new job can be coupled with the daunting task of finding one! 

We are here to make the process easier and save you time. ​If you’re interested in A&E roles, take a look at a list of our current opportunities here.

Step 4 — Interviewing for different roles

Practice answering as many potential questions as you can before your interview to give yourself some added confidence. Ideally practice with a senior mentor within your work placement or university. Some examples include:

Why do you want this job?

The basic question, but gets straight to the point. Talk about why you went into nursing in the first instance and how that relates to working as an A&E nurse.

What issues are currently faced by UK healthcare providers?

Make sure you read up on current affairs involving healthcare before the interview.

How have you dealt with conflict in the past?

Explain how you have calmed a situation down in the past as this is highly relevant to the challenges you will face in A&E. 

What does ‘compassionate care’ mean to you?

Revise your ‘six Cs’, and think of an example where you have shown compassionate care.

Looking for open A&E nurse roles?

Since 2016, MCG Healthcare has worked with the NHS and private providers across primary and secondary healthcare settings. Recruiting nationwide in both permanent and temporary markets, we’ll find the right fit for you.

Our expert team has a combined 75 years’ of healthcare recruitment experience and we are here to help you in your search for A&E nurse jobs. Give us a call on 0330 024 1345 or register with us today.

About the author
Simon Watson Healthcare Writer

Simon Watson is a copy writer with a passion for research and an interesting in all thing’s healthcare. Writing about healthcare requires a lot of research and fact checking before even starting the writing process, this is why Simon finds it so rewarding to write articles about this important industry.

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