Working as a Nursery Nurse
Working with young children can be both challenging and demanding, but is also very rewarding. Unfortunately it’s an industry with a bit of an image problem as people immediately think that the pay is poor. What people often forget is that it is an industry where employers are encouraged to constantly develop and progress their staff, and the job market is extremely buoyant compared to many other industries.
Our career spotlight interview is with Jackie, was a late-joiner to the childcare industry and trained as a nursery nurse only after starting her own family. Jackie has great passion and enthusiasm for working with children and gives us an insight into what it’s really like being a nursery nurse.
So, briefly, what is your job?
“I work in childcare as a Nursery Nurse which encompasses a whole range of duties and responsibilities. Primarily I make sure that the children in my care have a safe and nurturing environment in which to play and learn. I do a lot of paperwork and planning for the children in my care and need have a good working knowledge of the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) and other legislation regarding children/childcare. There’s also the yuckier side of nappy changes and toilet training! It’s not for the faint hearted and you should be prepared to get your hands dirty!”
How did you get into it?
“I had a total change of career when my son was about two years old and decided to retrain as a nursery nurse as it was something I’d always been interested in. I completed my NVQ Level 2 in Childcare, Learning and Development within six months and was offered a job at the nursery where I had done my placement and training. Further down the line I have just completed my NVQ Level 3 and hope to gain my Early Years Practitioner qualification within the next two years.”
Describe a typical day.
“The one thing about nursery work is that there is no such thing as a typical day! We do try and stick to a routine, but it is subject to change according to the needs of the children – we always have to be flexible.
There’s generally a morning session and an afternoon session split by lunch. Some children are in your care on a full time basis, others may come in for a few sessions a week.
The session starts with the register so we can confirm how many children are present and have a general review of what the staff in the room has planned for the session. There are always various activities on the go, some planned, some spontaneous. I have a group of key children and it is my responsibility to plan activities for them, observe them and note down anything that will help them get the most from their nursery education. So depending on what I have observed and planned I could be doing anything from playing outside, digging for worms, painting, making cakes, leading story/songtime or being dressed up in role play area! Even when I’ve planned an activity there’s no guarantees that it will turn out as planned which is all part of the fun.
We do get time to do our paperwork so when it’s my turn to take the time out I’m catching up on planning activities and putting observations and photographs together to create an official record of the child’s learning.”
What do you enjoy most about your job?
“I love the children. I can’t express how rewarding it is to work with children and how much enjoyment I get from watching a child come out of their shell and develop new skills. I want to make their time in my care as much fun as possible so they will hopefully look back fondly on it.”
And the least?
“The amount of paperwork. Obviously for lots of reasons everything we do has to be documented and in line with various childcare legislation. There are observations to write up, risk assessments, records of what the children have eaten that day (to name but a few) and it all has to be filed correctly so it can be double checked and referred back to if necessary – for example if Ofsted pay the nursery a visit.”
What are the common misconceptions that people have about the work you do?
“I think a lot of people think that I do nothing but play all day! In reality, I’m constantly observing the children, supervising the activity if necessary and constantly checking for any hazards. And then there’s the tidying up…
I think there’s also a view that childcare is something you do if you aren’t particularly clever. It’s a view which I am glad to see is changing – the standards over the past few years have certainly risen and I can confirm from personal experience that to gain the qualifications it is a lot of hard work!”
What are the main skills you need to work in childcare?
“Organisation, organisation, organisation. You will have several files for several purposes that all need to be kept up to date. The paperwork can be plentiful, but it’s all necessary.
I think it’s important to have a genuine affinity for children as well. It’s not a job you can do just for the money, you definitely need to be able to connect with the children in your care and build a relationship with them.
You also need a lot of patience and a very good sense of humour where the children are concerned!”
Tell us a little about the benefits that come with the job.
“Childcare isn’t the best paid job in the world. It varies greatly from workplace to workplace and depends on how qualified and experienced you are.
I do get a lot of job satisfaction from what I do and it has opened up a lot of other career avenues such as working with children with special educational needs. I feel that I am always learning something in childcare.”
What advice would you give someone wanting to break into this career?
“I would recommend doing a voluntary placement first and seeing if you enjoy the job before deciding on starting the training.
Try and get some experience with various age groups so you can get an idea of which age you want to work with and really get a feel for the job – the unpleasant bits as well as the fun parts.”
Where do you see yourself in 10 years’ time?
“I’d like to still be working in childcare. I’d like to concentrate more on working with children with special education needs – an avenue which I would have never considered if I hadn’t initially started as a nursery nurse.”
AND JUST FOR FUN…
First in the office or last to leave?
Tea or coffee?
Staff canteen or packed lunch?
“Packed lunch. Unless the children are have something tasty and I can scrounge some leftovers.”
The lift or the stairs?
Out after work or straight home to bed?
“Home to my own children. Work is a bit of a Busman’s Holiday really!”