Going in to Nursing

I chose to study English Language, Psychology, Sociology and Business Studies at sixth form. I chose these A levels because I thought I would enjoy them most and they would be applicable to lots of different university courses, as I wasn't sure exactly what career I wanted to go in initially. I am currently at De Montfort University studying Children’s Nursing. Despite getting good GCSE and AS results, I found nursing a very over-subscribed degree course. My only other offer was from Coventry University and to be honest, I was very happy to get these offers as it was such a competitive course to get onto with only around 20-30 spaces for Children’s nursing at each university.

I always knew that I wanted to work with children but I couldn’t decide which exact career to go in to. I originally considered teaching and I also thought nursing looked like a lovely career but never thought I could do it because I was not studying Biology and science had never been my strong point.  However, I found out that some universities didn't require A level Biology to study nursing and the more I looked into it, the more this course began to appeal. I kept my options open and made sure that I had relevant work experience for both courses and attended open days at different universities, attending talks on both teaching and nursing to see which one I preferred. I did work experience at a local primary school every week when I had free periods at sixth form. Eventually though, I decided on nursing, as I felt that my personality suited the caring role of a nurse and I liked the prospect of the varied career opportunities that a degree in nursing can give you.

I found it difficult when applying for university as most of my friends were sending off their personal statements and getting offers straight away, whereas I had to attend interviews to get a place at each university. The interviews were definitely weighted more heavily than grades due to the nature of the course. It was more important for the universities to accept students who were passionate about caring for people and possessed the qualities that make a good nurse. I think this is what impressed De Montfort, as I really expressed how much I love working with children and their families and that I genuinely wanted a career in nursing and felt that it matched my personality well. I was absolutely thrilled when I got the results to take up my place there.

My first couple of months at university were relatively slow and they eased us in gently with lectures but by January, placements started and everything got very busy and hasn’t really slowed down since! I had to learn how to juggle working full time hours which consisted of 12 hour days and night shifts and also try and get assignments completed on time and it was quite a big adjustment to make. I’ve had to get very good at time management.

The workload for nursing is very high and more demanding in comparison to other courses. We have the same workload as a normal student but we have practical placements on top of that. The workload is probably quite consistent during the first year but I would say that the work has gotten harder because our exams are now more anatomy and physiology based, which can be quite hard to get your head around, especially as a non-scientist.  I've had to take my learning into my own hands a bit more to understand it all.

Our workload is also very different in terms of the holiday we get each year as we only have 2 weeks off for summer as opposed to the 3 or 4 months that most students have. This can be quite hard when I’m on placement and my friends are at home in Northampton but it definitely makes it easier that I enjoy what I’m doing and I can always pop home to see my friends if I have a couple of days off work. 

Our academic year is split into 50% theory and 50% practice. This means that we will have a few weeks in university where we are attending lectures and doing assignments or exams and then we will have a few weeks in placement where we are usually based on Children’s wards in the hospital and have practical books to complete, as well any assignments. 

One of the biggest challenges of my course is time management and making sure that I put an equal amount of effort into my theory work and my practical work and trying to balance this with having a social life as well. Another challenge is dealing with the emotional aspects of caring for sick children and their families. I have had placements in environments such as Paediatric Intensive Care which can sometimes have upsetting outcomes for families and I have definitely learnt that this career can be emotionally demanding and you have to find the right way to deal with that for yourself as its different for everyone.

However, the good points definitely outweigh the bad and I absolutely love my course and I am so excited for my career as it makes me really happy to help children and try to brighten their day when they are in such a scary environment. I never thought I would love my course as much as I do - I couldn’t imagine doing anything else. I think you have to be quite sure that you want to go into this career and have a genuine love of helping people before applying for nursing as it is a challenging course and the enjoyment of it is what makes it worthwhile.  

So far in my course, the placement I enjoyed the most was a surgical Cardiac ward which cared for children who had congenital heart disease and were recovering from or needed heart surgery. I loved learning about the anatomy and physiology of the heart and some of the conditions that the children on the ward had and I am hoping to apply for this ward when it comes to applying for jobs - which is coming round very soon!