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Band 5 progression

Many members who come through to the RCN Career Service are band 5 nurses (or equivalent), looking to take the next step and progress within their career.

Some individuals will have a very clear idea of what they want to do next, whilst others know that they want to develop or progress but aren't sure what path they want to take.

This page is intended to encourage thoughts and ideas, and inspire you with some choices to explore and research further.

A lot of members who contact the RCN Career Service express a desire to develop, progress or change, but aren't sure which way to go or even where to start looking.

If you're looking for ideas about different options and what you might like to do next, this page could help you. Rather than compiling a long list of all the various roles to be found within nursing, we've tried to separate roles into groups of attributes, interests and strengths. See if any of the groups below resonate with you and if so, start to explore some of the related jobs in more detail.

Consider a specialist role if you...

  • Like the idea of being an "expert" on a chosen clinical area or condition
  • Enjoy advising others
  • Have an interest in a particular clinical area or clinical remit
  • Feel confident or knowledgeable in a particular clinical area
  • Often have colleagues coming to you for advice

Specialise

Many nurses are drawn towards specialist roles because they have a particular interest or passion within a certain area of nursing, and prefer the idea of being a clinical expert within that area. You could specialise:

  • Within a clinical remit or area (e.g. school nursing, occupational health, sexual etc), or 
  • In relation to a clinical condition (e.g. substance misuse, dementia, lung cancer, diabetes, etc)

Nurses working within specialist roles will have specialist skills, competencies and experience, and practice at an advanced level. They will also usually have completed or will be working towards post-registration courses or qualifications relevant to their specialist area such as modules, degrees, or Masters. They work independently, often taking sole responsibility for a caseload or group of patients. 

Some examples of specialist roles:

  • Occupational Health Nurse
  • School Nurse 
  • Midwife / Community Midwife 
  • Health Visitor
  • Sexual Health Adviser 
  • Clinical Nurse Specialist / Nurse Specialist / Specialist Nurse
  • Specialist Mental Health Therapist
If you're interested in specialist roles...

If you think you might be suited to a specialist role, you'll probably want to do some further research. Here are some things you can do:

  • Take it upon yourself to become an expert in your chosen subject in your own time. Read up on it, go to the library, subscribe to related journals or online articles, attend conferences, join professional networks, etc. 
  • If appropriate, volunteer to become a "link nurse" for your chosen subject. (e.g. infection control, diabetes, nutrition, etc)
  • Contact relevant employers and organisations to arrange informal visits.
  • Job adverts will usually list the relevant manager's contact details. Call them to find out more about the role or ask for advice. 
  • Use your contacts, colleagues, etc. to get in touch with specialist nurses. Ask them if you can take their contact details for future reference.
  • Try to shadow specialist nurses. This could be through your networking, informal visits or through your current employer.
  • Do your research - study all the job vacancies at the level you want (e.g. band 6 / band 7) - what experience and skills do employers want?
  • If appropriate, speak to your manager for support, and make sure any goals or aspirations are documented in your 121s.
  • See if your employer offers mentoring or coaching, or has any career frameworks. 
  • Volunteer with a charity relevant to your chosen specialty for experience. 

Consider an advanced role if you...

  • Would like more responsibility
  • Are comfortable when working independently 
  • Would like more freedom to act and/or make decisions
  • Would like to gain advanced clinical skills/competencies 
  • Often have colleagues asking you for advice

Advanced

'Advanced' roles are often characterised by higher levels of clinical skills and competence, increased responsibility, more autonomy to make decisions, etc. If the idea of using advanced skills, dealing with more complex patients and having more freedom to make decisions appeals to you, you may want to consider an advanced nursing role.

Nurses working in advanced roles may have a slightly wider breadth of practice than nurses in specialist roles, although this is not always necessarily the case. In the case of Nurse Practitioners or Advanced Nurse Practitioners, a high degree of autonomous decision-making may be required, along with the remit to diagnose, treat and prescribe.

Examples of Advanced roles:

  • District nurse 
  • Practice nurse 
  • Community Psychiatric Nurse
  • Senior mental health nurse
  • Senior Staff Nurse
  • Health visitor
  • Nurse Adviser (e.g. NHS 111)
  • Triage nurse
  • Nurse practitioner
  • Advanced nurse practitioner / Emergency nurse practitioner 
If you're interested in advanced roles...
 
If you think you might be suited to an advanced role, you'll probably want to do some further research before you start applying. Here's some things you can do: 

  • Ask your manager about development opportunities, such as taking charge, learning new skills or competencies, doing courses, etc.
  • Contact relevant employers and organisations to arrange informal visits. Be specific about which roles interest you.
  • Job adverts will usually list the relevant manager's contact details. Call them to find out more about the role or ask for advice.
  • Use your contacts, colleagues, etc. to get in touch with advanced nurses. Ask them if you can take their contact details for future reference.
  • Try to shadow advanced nurses. This could be through your networking, informal visits or through your current employer.
  • Do your research - study all the job vacancies at the level you want (e.g. band 6 / band 7) - what experience and skills do employers want?
  • If appropriate, speak to your manager for support, and make sure any goals or aspirations are documented in your 121s.
  • See if your employer offers mentoring or coaching, or has any career frameworks. 
If you think you might be suited to a specialist role, you'll probably want to do some further research before you start applying. Here's some things you can do: Take it upon yourself to become an expert in your chosen subject in your own time. Read up on it, go to the library, subscribe to related journals or online articles, attend conferences, join professional networks, etc. If appropriate, volunteer to become a "link nurse" for your chosen subject. (e.g. infection control, diabetes, nutrition, etc) Contact relevant employers and organisations to arrange informal visits. Job adverts will usually list the relevant manager's contact details. Call them to find out more about the role or ask for advice. Use your contacts, colleagues, etc. to get in touch with specialist nurses. Ask them if you can take their contact details for future reference. Try to shadow specialist nurses. This could be through your networking, informal visits or through your current employer. Do your research - study all the job vacancies at the level you want (e.g. band 6 / band 7) - what experience and skills do employers want? If appropriate, speak to your manager for support, and make sure any goals or aspirations are documented in your 121s. See if your employer offers mentoring or coaching, or has any career frameworks. Volunteer with a charity relevant to your chosen specialty for experience. 

Consider a leadership role if you...

  • Are good at making decisions and planning
  • Enjoy supporting and motivating colleagues
  • Fee confident when taking charge or leading in situations
  • Consider yourself a good role model
  • Don't mind having less direct contact with patients
  • Colleagues often ask you what to do or coming to you for support

Leadership  

Nurse leaders help patients by managing the nurses who care for them, drawing together patient experience and the coordination of the multidisciplinary team. They also play an important role in providing staff with learning and development opportunities. 

If you enjoy situations where you can take the lead, and like the idea of motivating a team, you may want to consider a leadership role.

Examples of leadership roles:

  • Team Leader 
  • Deputy Sister
  • Sister 
  • Charge Nurse
  • Ward Manager
  • Unit Manager / Team Manager
  • Deputy home Manager / home manager
  • Clinical site manager 
  • Practice manager

If you're interested in leadership roles...

  • Ask your manager about development opportunities, such as taking charge more, training new staff, doing courses and training, etc.
  • Find out what resources your employer has to offer staff with regards to leadership. E.g. if you work in the NHS, see the Leadership Academy.
  • Research leadership initiatives in nursing, subscribe to journals, make contacts on LinkedIn and join professional networks for nurse leaders
  • Ask your employer if you can shadow other nurse leaders. Try to shadow leaders from other departments and levels in addition to your own.
  • Get involved with your organisation or employer and enquire about attending future board meetings or organisational meetings. 
  • Use your contacts, colleagues, etc. to get in touch with nurses in leadership roles. Ask them if you can take their contact details for future reference.
  • Study all job vacancies for leadership roles at the level you want (e.g. band 6 / band 7). What roles are out there, and what type of experience and attributes are employers looking for?
  • Speak to your manager for support, and make sure any goals or aspirations are documented in your 121s.
  • See if your employer offers mentoring or coaching, or has any career frameworks. 

Consider a role in education or facilitation of learning if you...

  • Enjoy teaching, coaching, or mentoring
  • Like talking to groups of people 
  • Enjoy supporting and developing others
  • Feel passionately about education and learning 
  • Don't mind having less direct contact with patients

Teaching

If you're passionate about learning and like the idea of developing others, you may want to consider a role within nurse education or the facilitation of learning. 

You could develop, implement and deliver strategies to support the educational needs of nurses and/or students, ensuring best practice and evidence based care at all times. 

Some examples of education or learning roles:

  • Practice educator / Practice Facilitator
  • Trainer
  • Clinical Practice Lead / Clinical lead
  • Nurse lead
  • Practice Development Lead
  • Lead nurse
  • Nurse educator
  • Nurse lecturer 
If you're interested in educative or learning roles...

  • Ask your manager about development opportunities, e.g. doing a mentorship course if you haven't already done this, coaching new colleagues, etc.
  • Put yourself forward for opportunities such as being involved with inductions, designing training material, or project work around learning and development.
  • Make enquiries with local universities about mentorship courses and/or teaching qualifications for nurses.
  • Contact relevant employers and organisations to arrange informal visits. Be specific about which roles interest you.
  • Try to shadow other nurses in educative roles.. This could be through your networking, informal visits or through your current employer.
  • Use your contacts, colleagues, etc. to get in touch with nurses in these roles. Ask them if you can take their contact details for future reference.
  • Do your research - study all the job vacancies at the level you want (e.g. band 6 / band 7) - what experience and skills do employers want?
  • If appropriate, speak to your manager for support, and make sure any goals or aspirations are documented in your 121s.
  • See if your employer offers mentoring or coaching, or has any career frameworks. 

Consider a role in research if you...

  • Are interested in investigating and finding new treatments or breakthroughs
  • Are passionate about improving patient care or patient experience
  • Have good planning skills with a good eye for detail
  • Enjoy working with data and statistics
  • Have good computer-based skills

Nurses within research provide and deliver high quality patient care to support the delivery of clinical research studies within a service or department.

Duties could include preparing trial protocols and other trial-related documentation, dealing with data collection, submitting study proposals for regulatory approval, and coordinating the initiation, management and completion of the research.

Examples of jobs within Research:

  • Clinical research nurse
  • Research and development nurse
  • Research sister / charge nurse
  • Senior clinical research nurse
  • Research associate
  • Research midwife
  • Clinical academic

If you're interested in research roles...

  • Most trusts or organisations will have a Research and Development department who can put you in touch with the lead clinical research nurse. Ask them about shadowing or short term work placements.
  • Find out if there's any work, projects or initiatives around research / quality improvement / innovation going on, and ask to be involved.
  • Join the RCN Research Society and have a look at the RCN's dedicated Research and Innovation resources
  • Contact relevant organisations and companies to arrange informal visits, to gain more info, insight and contacts.
  • Try to shadow nurses in various research roles.. This could be through your networking, informal visits or through your current employer.
  • Use your contacts, colleagues, etc. to get in touch with nurses working in research. Ask them if you can take their contact details for future reference.
  • Study research vacancies - What experience and skills do employers want? Some band 5 posts may not require prior research experience.
  • If appropriate, speak to your manager for support, and make sure any goals or aspirations are documented in your 121s.
  • See if your employer offers mentoring or coaching, or has any career frameworks. 


Career crossroads 500 x 200

Career Crossroads

What to consider when changing direction and help with planning your next career move
Healthy workplace

Career progression tips

The success to career progression often depends largely on adopting a pro-active approach and, "putting yourself out there."

Find out how you can develop yourself as a professional and boost your career by arranging shadowing, informal visits or networking.