What do you need to consider before becoming a student nurse?
It’s a big endeavour to become a student nurse, and an even bigger one to get through university and become a fully qualified nursing professional. But what are the factors to consider before you fill out your UCAS application?
12th October 2011
Congratulations on considering a career in nursing! It’s a career like no other full of rewarding experiences and new challenges. However, making the decision to become a student nurse is one you should consider taking all the factors into account that could affect you during your course. Even though you may know in your heart it’s the only career path for you, there are still numerous things you should consider before you become a student nurse. No one wants to start a journey they can’t complete, so if you set yourself up to succeed in the first place, you’re more likely to have a successful outcome.
Studying for any university degree is a challenge, but becoming a student nurse is one of the most challenging things you can undertake in your life. Most nursing courses are now degree level, so over three years you will undertake both academic study and practical work experience in a nursing environment. You will start going out on nursing placements in your first year, and sometimes in your first term after only a few weeks of study.
You will spent at least 50% of your time during your course out of university on professional placements. The university will schedule your placements for you, and you will receive details of each department you will be seconded to at the beginning of the term or the year depending on the university. The NMC require you to have experience of 24 hour care in order to join the register as a qualified nurse at the conclusion of your course, so you must prepare for early, late and night shifts during your placements.
You will usually be based within 1 hours traveling distance of the university, but you will be expected to get there by your own means at any time required by the placement. So when you get your placement timetable, decide how you are going to get there. You might not always be able to get a bus or a train that will get you to your placement in time for a 7am start or get you home a 12am finish, so you have to consider whether you will need a car or a lift from friends or family to fulfill your placement schedule.
Becoming a student nurse is incredibly hard work, at several points during the course you will be out on placement with academic study to undertake in your own time while working on your portfolio, so considering how much time you will have to spend with your family is key before you become a student nurse. If you have small children you will need to come up with a plan of who could look after them while you’re at university, or if they’re of school age, who can drop them off and pick them up from school. Many student nurses manage their course with children of all ages, so it can be done, but a good support network of family and trusted friends is essential for peace of mind.
Your term dates may also not coincide with school holidays, so you may still be attending placements while your kids are on holiday. In your first term while you’re studying at the university campus, then your terms dates will be as expected with a holiday break at Christmas, but placements have to be flexible about the dates they can take students. You will of course get to take your holiday at a different time if a placement should be scheduled during a holiday period, but this may not be negotiable.
Tuition Fees, Student Loan & Bursary
Whether you’re a UK or EU student, the NHS pays all the tuition fees for the course so you don’t have to worry about getting a student loan to cover fees. If you’re a UK student you are also entitled to a means tested bursary and top up student loan to contribute towards your living costs and expenses. You can get an estimate of the value of the bursary that you could be entitled to by going to the NHS bursary calculator. If you have to travel further to your placement than from your home to the university campus, you should be able to claim expenses for the additional travel costs but these are only paid if you make a claim for reimbursement.
Part time work while studying
It is possible to do a part time job while you’re a student nurse, and some people do choose to work in care homes or on the NHS bank as a healthcare assistant, but as you progress from your first year to your second and then third year as a student nurse, the demands on your time increase and trying to hold down a part time job in conjunction with your course can become very stressful. When you’re working out your finances and how much money you need to live on each month, don’t count on being able to work part time throughout your entire course otherwise you could be placing unnecessary pressure on yourself that will make your final year in particular almost impossible to manage.
Being a student nurse is a challenging and sometimes pressurised time, but well worth the effort in order to become a qualified nurse. If you set yourself up to succeed by considering these issues before you begin your course, you will be less stressed, able to concentrate more on your work with fewer worries in your head, and ultimately get the best grade you can.
Check out the nursing jobs currently available to get an idea of the kind of jobs you could apply for when you qualify.