Career advice

Is it time to step up to a band 6 nursing position?

The pandemic may have given you a taste of more senior roles – so consider your next move

The pandemic may have given you a taste of more senior roles so heres how to consider your next move

The past year has been a challenging and difficult one for healthcare staff everywhere, with the pandemic forcing nurses at all levels to work in unfamiliar environments and in different roles.

As many services moved online or were scaled back to create additional capacity, nurses working in these departments were redeployed to intensive care units, with others supporting teams on respiratory wards and acute medical units.

Band 5 nurses gain experience of more senior roles

While caring for patients during the COVID-19 pandemic, many nurses have rapidly grown their knowledge and expertise in new areas, including infection

The pandemic may have given you a taste of more senior roles – so here’s how to consider your next move

Picture: Ian Dodds

The past year has been a challenging and difficult one for healthcare staff everywhere, with the pandemic forcing nurses at all levels to work in unfamiliar environments and in different roles.

As many services moved online or were scaled back to create additional capacity, nurses working in these departments were redeployed to intensive care units, with others supporting teams on respiratory wards and acute medical units.

Band 5 nurses gain experience of more senior roles

While caring for patients during the COVID-19 pandemic, many nurses have rapidly grown their knowledge and expertise in new areas, including infection control, palliative care and leadership.

Despite the devastating impact on the physical and mental health of front-line healthcare workers, many nurses working at band 5 level have had to step into roles requiring skills more akin to those of a more senior role. These include taking charge of a ward or department at short notice, acting up to cover sickness absence, and solving complex problems as they emerge.

As services and roles return to more familiar ways of working, opportunities will arise for nurses to reflect on their roles and re-evaluate their career choices. Many who enjoyed the challenges of greater responsibility may now be asking themselves if this is the right time to apply for a more senior position.

Band 6 roles vary and require different skills and levels of experience

A review of band 6 positions on the NHS Jobs website shows wide variation in the qualifications deemed essential for roles at this level.

‘Acknowledge your strengths and the things you enjoy about your current role. Will you be able to grow and develop these in a new position?’

Specialist areas such as intensive care units or emergency departments may seek candidates who have at least 18 months of post-registration experience. They may also want candidates who have undertaken postgraduate education, such as a master’s degree or mentorship course.

Other areas may be less specific, stating just ‘post-registration experience’ or ‘previous experience' as essential criteria.

There is also variation in the length of post-registration experience required, which can range from as little as six months to up to two years. This suggests two things:

  • Band 6 roles are not all the same. Employers are looking for a wide variety of skills, experiences and levels of education.
  • Nurses develop skills to take on more senior roles at different rates. Some may find leadership and management roles suit them well and move quickly into more senior positions, while others may prefer to stay put. The profession needs nurses at every level, and it is unwise to move into a more senior role when it is not the right time to do so.

Dos and don’ts when considering a band 6 role

Do

Talk to your line manager and ask for feedback on your recent performance – advice is invaluable. Be open-minded and receptive to all feedback, good and bad


Ensure you have good clinical supervision. This can support your continuing professional development and is especially valuable when you have a new and more senior role

Compare your CV against the criteria listed in the person specification section for the position. If you don’t yet meet the essential criteria, think about how you might get the missing elements or how you might convince an employer that your skills are a good match


Talk to the recruiting manager for any new position so you can gain as much insight into the role as possible


Take your time. The past year has been an exhausting one for many of us and a new job needs energy and a clear head




Don’t

Worry about what colleagues might say; only you can decide if the time is right



Be disheartened if you do not get a new role straight away. Ask for feedback on your application and interview – gaining insight into how you come across to others will help you next time


Give up. If the time is right for you to get a new role, it will happen

Self-awareness and honesty are vital

The decision to apply for a band 6 position is a significant one and the responsibilities of the role can be great. In a year when nursing leadership has been tested more than ever, many nurses working at this level have spoken about being pushed to their limits.

But it is also immensely rewarding, with great opportunities to influence, be a role model for junior nurses and students, and learn the craft of leadership under the support of more senior staff.

Knowing whether you are ready for the next step requires insight, self-awareness and honesty. It is unwise to take a promotion purely for financial reasons, or because your peers are moving up their own career path, so be clear in your mind about why you want to consider a more senior role.

Acknowledge your strengths and the things you enjoy about your current role. Will you be able to grow and develop these in a new position? And be honest with yourself about timing - sometimes a personal situation may take priority and a change in role could create instability or anxiety.

Make sure you read the job description

When considering an application for a band 6 position it is important to review the details of the job description carefully. While you may have worked with nurses already in band 6 jobs and think you know the full extent of their responsibilities, do not assume that the role you are applying for is the same.

Some band 6 roles come with the responsibility of leading a team. You may also be expected to deputise for the manager or take the lead on specific projects and initiatives.

Put simply, there is no ‘right time’ to apply for a band 6 role. But if you advocate for your patients, support senior colleagues, take every opportunity to learn, seek help when you are unsure and lead with compassion and empathy, perhaps now is the time to think about taking the next step.


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