General Nursing

By Aedín Dunne - Last update

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Do you have a passion for helping people? Do you want to add to the lives of others by taking care of them, treating them and helping their families while doing so? Are you caring, hard working, compassionate, kind and good with people? General Nursing is an area that requires all of these qualities and more. 

What is general nursing?

General nursing is the care and meeting of the medical needs of adults and their families/carers in different settings from hospitals, clinics or community settings. You will take into account the emotional, physical, psychological, social and spiritual needs of patients.  

General nurses provide direct patient care as well as promote good health while playing a huge role in the rehabilitation, caring and treating of patients. 

What 3rd level courses are available?

Universities and colleges in Ireland are offering courses in the following subject areas:

  • General Nursing – UL
  • General Nursing – DCU
  • General Nursing – AIT, DKIT, WIT, LYIT, GMIT
  • General Nursing – St Angelas College
  • General Nursing – UCD
  • General Nursing – NUIG
  • Children’s and General Nursing – DCU, TCD, UCC, UCD

Studying general nursing in college

Courses in General Nursing are offered in colleges and Universities around the country and are popular courses. All courses are four years long and will give you the opportunity to develop your skills and knowledge in order to work as a general nurse in a range of settings such as hospitals, clinics, prisons and out in the community. 

Your first year of any undergraduate degree will act as a foundation year and teach you the basics of your course as well as what lies ahead in the coming years. In a general nursing course, your first year will focus on different areas from Transition to University, Foundations of Nursing, Biosciences, Psychology and practical experience in a hospital. This may differ from course to course but, for example, in UCD, this will be a 10 week placement. 

Your second and third year will introduce you to more complex and in depth modules and information including Medical-Surgical Nursing Care, Pharmacology, Biopsychosocial Approaches to Health, Ethics and legal context for practice as well as speciality clinical placements such as working in ICU or Maternity care. 

In your fourth year, you may look at modules from Promoting Health, Management and Quality Improvement, Evidence-based Practice in Health-care and sociology finished with your final placement/internship to complete your course. 

Nursing courses can be quite high pressure and stressful between your placement and work loads. You will have a mixture of lectures, tutorials, practical classes while assessments are usually done end of semester exams, continuous assessment and assessment while on placement. 

Career Options

General nursing courses open many doors for people. The most obvious option is to qualify as a General Nurse and work in settings from hospitals and clinics to the community, in homes, prisons or private healthcare settings. 

Many who complete their undergraduate course in General Nursing will continue on with their studies at postgraduate level. You may specialise in a particular area of your interest such as Occupational Therapy, Psychiatric Nursing, Medicine and more. Courses in this field all require a HPAT exam to gain a place on the courses. More information about the HPAT is below. 

Another option is also to go into research while teaching or lecturing in colleges and Universities later in your career. 

To work in this profession there are some skills and qualities that are essential. These include excellent communication skills, interpersonal skills, patience, a caring nature, kind, empathetic, a critical thinker, work well with others and work well under pressure, a desire to help others, stamina, passion and a problem solver.

Related Jobs

  • General Nurse
  • Psychiatric/Mental Health Nurse
  • Paediatric Nurse
  • Intellectual Disability Nursing 
  • Care assistant 
  • Medical Assistant
  • Midwife
  • Occupational Therapist 
  • Physiotherapist 

Further Study

Visit for more information. 


Different courses and different colleges will have different entry requirements. It’s always safest to check with the individual higher education institution which is available on their websites. As a general rule Leaving Cert students should have a minimum of six subjects which should

include: Two H5 (Higher Level) grades and Four O6 (Ordinary Level) grades or four H7 (Higher Level) grades. Subjects must include Mathematics, Irish or another language, and English. 

Certain QQI Awards in a relevant area are also accepted. These change from course to course so be sure to research further. 

The maximum points for general nursing was 533 points last year for Children’s and General Nursing in UCC. The highest points for a General Nursing course on it’s own was 475 in UL while the lowest was 400 in LYIT. The majority of courses in the nursing area range from 320 to 533. It is important to note that it can be competitive to get into these courses as not all students who got the points were allocated places. 

Where can I study?

You can explore your options here

Did you know?

  • It is believed that nurses can walk more than 5k on an average shift
  • There are around 78,000 nurses and midwives registered in Ireland 
  • International Nurses Day is May 12th 


Becoming a nurse or midwife 

Student Grant Scheme 

Nurse job description 

HPAT Exam 

Aedín Dunne

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