- 27 January 2020
- 10 min read
How I successfully applied for nursing school
Ikra is in her first year studying at Birmingham University to become a Children's Nurse. Here she explains why she chose nursing as a career and how she won her place on her nursing degree course.
Topics covered in this blog
Watching healthcare professionals care for my niece is what inspired me to become a nurse
Nursing hasn’t always been my dream job. In fact, until 2018 I hadn’t even thought of it as a career path.
You read stories where others have set this goal in their minds from a young age, but for me it wasn’t as simple.
I took an interest in so many different subjects that my avenues were endless, though this resulted in me not knowing what to focus on for many years.
I endured college and went onto doing a foundation year at university where I had open options to enter onto any biology-based course.
Once I had completed it, I still wasn’t drawn to anything I liked which was so frustrating.
I ended up working in different office-based jobs and just never really felt like they were something I’d pursue long-term.
However, at the age of 21, I found exactly where I belonged.
I fell in love with nursing when my niece, of 6 months, was diagnosed with Hydrocephalus and was admitted to hospital as she needed to be operated on.
The compassion and care that she received during her stay was indescribable.
Watching healthcare professionals work in unison, seamlessly, was so inspiring to me.
Nursing is a career of selfless devotion and one I would be privileged to work in, so here I am, as a first-year student paediatric nurse.
Thinking of becoming a nurse? Do your research!
Do a lot of research!
I looked into what a nurses job role entailed, nursing within the NHS, which field I felt best suited me (Adult Nurse, Children's Nurse, Learning Disability Nurse or Mental Health Nurse), which universities I wanted to apply at and everything about the courses they ran.
It is essential that you have a good understanding of what you’re getting yourself into.
As many will say, nursing can be a challenging career, as much as it is wonderful.
There are alternative routes or even other Nursing related courses that you feel might suit you better.
The UCAS application
This is the first step to applying to nursing school.
It can seem daunting however it’s pretty simple.
You have the option of applying to up to 5 universities (which took me days to decide on) and once submitted, they will collect references and then send the full application through to the admissions teams at the relevant universities.
My personal statement
This is the central part of your application.
You are given an allotted amount of words to explain to the university, your reasons why you want to become a nurse.
My advice for writing out a personal statement is ensuring that you are including relevant experience and transferable skills to the nursing course.
Remember that nursing courses are a mixture of theory and practical work compared to most other courses.
Don’t let that deter you if you maybe haven’t worked in a healthcare setting, neither have I, however as an example I learnt key skills such as organisation and timekeeping in my previous roles which are really important in a busy career like nursing.
Top tips for your nursing personal statement
• Be yourself- they want to see your honesty as this is really important as a Nurse
• Check your spelling and grammar, it seems simple but can make a huge difference if not given importance to
• Be clear and concise. Link your experiences to nursing and use relevant details but try not to overwrite unnecessarily
• Use a thesaurus to vary your words. This is useful when you find yourself being repetitive
• Structure the piece in an effective way: begin with a strong introduction, engaging middle and a well-rounded conclusion
• Read nursing personal statements posted online for inspiration
• Watch YouTube videos on any advice student nurses / registered nurses may have (check out the Nurses.co.uk YouTube Channel)
• Ask a few people (family, friends, teachers) to have a skim through and give their honest feedback. Their critique will help you improve it and make any amendments that are necessary/ recommended
• Think about why you chose the field that you did (Adult, Children, Mental Health or Learning Disability)
Once I was happy with it, I moved it into my UCAS application and finally submitted it, which was a huge sense of relief.
(If you'd like more information on how to write a personal statement for a university course application read this blog.)
Now there was the wait for interviews to worry about!
The interview for my nursing degree course
Nursing schools require interviews for entry. This could include a series of 1-2-1 and/or group questions and varied assessments.
My first interview was for the place I wanted the most.
The only thing concerning me was that I only had just over a week to prepare for it so I spent hours every day, researching questions they may ask me and just generally learning about nursing and the NHS.
I watched heaps of YouTube videos, read several blog posts and asked nursing students I followed on Instagram for any advice they may have on the entry process.
Approaching experienced students at times like this can prove to be really useful, especially because they’re really helpful.
Interviews are different at every nursing school so it’s worth going onto the university website and to look up what their advice is, they may give you some really good tips.
I was not required to complete any literacy or numeracy tests however I know that some institutions still require you to, therefore it is worth brushing up on these too. GCSE level is sufficient, and there are practice tests online to help you.
Topics to read up on ahead of your nursing degree course interview
• The 6 C’s: Compassion, Care, Competence, Commitment, Courage and Communication and examples of where you have demonstrated these
• The role of a modern Nurse in the NHS i.e. adapting to diversity
• Challenges within the NHS and ways to overcome these as a Nurse i.e. staffing shortages
• How to cope with stress/ heavy workload- this is different for everyone; it could be anything from going out with friends once a week to journaling daily
• The University course and why you chose their Nursing school
• Strengths and weaknesses: how can you improve on these? Keep it positive
• The Royal College of Nursing
• The Nursing and Midwifery Council
• Recent advancements within Medicine: new technology/ medications being used in care, new developments within research
Nursing school interview questions – what I was asked, how long it lasted and how I felt
My interview consisted of several questions: personal, academic and Nursing/ NHS related.
I made sure that throughout the answers, I was including the knowledge I gained from my research.
The STAR technique (will open in Wiki) is useful (Situation, Task, Action, Result) to give a detailed response.
An example of this is the panel asking for an instance where I worked effectively in a team.
I spoke about a time where I had a project to work on (and gave some appropriate particulars of it) and how critical communication was between myself and my peers to complete this project to the best of our abilities- incorporating one of the 6 C’s into my response.
I then went onto briefly explain how this links into Nursing and how as a Nurse, it is necessary to work collectively, with a variety of healthcare professionals to provide the best care possible for service users.
As much as this seem like a lot of information to read up on (on top of the existing nerves of an interview) if you are prepared it will make it easier.
It will put you 10 steps ahead.
This is your opportunity to display your desire to become a Nurse.
For however long you are in that room with the panel of interviewers (mine was approximately 20 minutes long), it is your time to be honest and genuine about why you want this place.
Don’t overthink answers, be authentic.
It is easier said than done, but don’t let your nerves get the better of you.
You were given the interview as they liked your application and thought you were worthy of that chance.
It meant that my focus was focused more on my demeaner and my confidence when answering the questions as opposed to the content.
Once you have had your nursing course interview - what happens next?
Depending on the university, time of year when applied and number of candidates, you will receive a response.
It could take anything from a couple of days to weeks or even months. Your university will advise you on this.
I received an unconditional offer within a week of my first interview which I was ecstatic with.
I accepted my offer and began receiving correspondence from the university regarding any paperwork they required.
I was given a January start as opposed to September as they had filled up quite quickly.
DBS checks were completed closer to the start date (which your university will get in contact with you about) and everything that I needed to know about induction.
I didn’t think I would be where I am today, not only as a student but writing a blog post regarding my entry into Nursing school to potentially help anyone else who is interested in/ currently applying to become a student nurse.
Best of luck to those applying either this year or any date beyond.
Never give up.
We are the future of the NHS.