From staff nurse to nurse consultant: Survival Guide part 8: Surviving on a basic wage

23 January 2020
Volume 29 · Issue 2


John Fowler, Educational Consultant, explores how to survive your nursing career

Throughout my working life friends have asked me for advice on the possibilities of a nursing career for themselves or for their children, as they begin to explore career options. I try to give an overview of the positive aspects of nursing: variety of work, people-focused, teamworking, opportunities for travel and flexibility of employment. I'll also include the less positive aspects: shiftwork, physical and emotional exhaustion, being surrounded by illness and grief, hopefully, giving an honest balance and an indication of the qualities needed to survive and enjoy a nursing career.

If I know the person well, I'll try to explore with them their strengths and how they would be able to use them in their nursing role. Whoever I'm talking to I will nearly always end the conversation with the phrase ‘as a nurse, you will never be rich, but you will never be poor’.

Unlike many careers, registration as a nurse gives you the skills to work in almost any part of the UK, in any town and in almost any medium-sized village. Provided you are willing to be flexible with where you work and with various client groups you can almost guarantee to find a job. Thus, you will never be poor. However the cost of living varies across the country, but the wages of nurses are relatively fixed (apart from London weighting allowances). This means that a full-time post in Leeds or Leicester may provide a liveable wage, but in Edinburgh or London it may only cover rent and essential bills. If yours is the main or only family income, then you will find yourself counting every penny and probably going into an overdraft at the end of the month. If yours is a second income into the family, then life may be a little easier.

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