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Nursery nurse and nursery assistant

Nursery nurses provide care for children up to the age of five years. They work primarily with young patients, although some are employed in nurseries looking after children of NHS staff. Nursery assistants will work alongside and usually under the supervision of qualified nursery nurses. They will often work alongside hospital play staff.

The work of nursery nurses typically includes the following:

  • providing physical, emotional and spiritual care to children
  • coordinating play for children in a range of settings
  • supporting carers in the parenting of their children
  • developing play as a means of communicating information to children, to distract them during unpleasant procedures and to maintain their stage of development during illness or stress
  • maintaining the environment in a child friendly manner
  • maintaining toys and play equipment
  • finding ways to stimulate children particularly those with special and sensory needs
  • attending meetings
  • working with members of multidisciplinary agencies within and outside of the NHS organisation they are working for.
  • maintaining records

Nursery assistants will assist nursery nurses in most aspects of their work (above), ensuring that the children in their care remain safe, happy and stimulated.

Additional responsibilities for nursery nurses, after further training or experience, include:

  • supporting children who have been abused
  • playing a key role in promoting public health
  • assisting in the education of learners/students who are training to work as nursery nurses and assistants

Nursery nurses and nursery assistants work in a variety of settings both in hospitals and in the community.

In hospitals, this will include children's wards, nurseries and outpatients departments.

In community settings, this could include working in nurseries in a health centre (as part of a health visiting team for example) or in a community centre, GP surgery or children's centre, for example.

Entry requirements

Nursery assistants may be able to gain employment with few or no academic qualifications, although some GCSEs (or equivalent qualifications) will usually be an advantage.

Nursery nurses usually need to hold a relevant child care qualification such as:

  • CACHE Level 3 Diploma in Child Care and Education - for entry onto this course you may need some GCSEs or equivalent level qualifications
  • BTEC National Diploma in Children's Care, Learning and Development - for this course you may need four GCSEs (A-C) or equivalent level qualifications
  • NVQ Level 3 in Children's Care, Learning and Development. These are usually undertaken within the workplace, so you will usually need to be employed in an appropriate job role

A driving licence may be required for posts that involve travelling.

More advanced roles will usually require additional training and/or experience. A supervisor working in a nursery/pre-school will need to hold a full and relevant level 3 NVQ or vocational qualification based on the National Occupational Standards (NOS) such as the NVQ  3 in CCLD. Practitioners wanting to check if their qualification is suitable, can refer to the Department for Education's qualifications finder.


Childcare qualifications are usually offered on a part-time as well as full-time basis at colleges and universities (depending upon the level of the qualification being studied).

It may be possible to gain nursery nurse qualifications through an apprenticeship.

Financial support

NHS employing organisations may provide support to nursery assistants and nursery nurses, working towards relevant qualifications. You will need to check with your employer regarding availability of any funding.

Pay nursery nurse and nursery assistant staff

Nursery assistants will usually be on Band 2 of the Agenda for Change pay system, with nursery nurses on Band 3 or 4. For information about actual pay rates, click here.

Career prospects

There are opportunities to progress to more senior roles or develop expertise in other areas of childcare.

Additional training and/or qualifications will usually be required for managerial posts.

Examples of job titles/roles, include senior nursery practitioner/officer, nursery manager, deputy nursery manager.

Job vacancies

Job vacancies for nursery nurses, nursery assistants and other related roles will be advertised on the NHS Jobs website.

When applying for vacancies, it is important to see what qualifications the particular NHS employer requires. These will be contained in the person specification for the vacancy. 

Further information

For further information about qualifications in childcare, please contact:

Apex House
81 Camp Road
St Albans
Tel: 0845 347 2123
Email: info@cache.org.uk
Website: http://www.cache.org.uk/