- 28 September 2018
- 11 min read
How to get into nursing at university
Nurses.co.uk vlogger and newly registered RMN, Chloe Lawrence, shares her advice and tips in this video on how to get into nursing at university.
Here's an abbreviated transcript
The topic that I'm going to be talking about today is getting into nursing at university.
I get so many questions about it, such as ‘I want to do nursing but where do I start?’
So I thought I would talk you through the process of getting into a nursing degree.
“Do your research” - choose your branch of nursing
The first part of that process should be research. You really need to do your research and this goes for all four different types of Nursing.
You can train as a mental health nurse, a learning disability nurse, an adult nurse or a children's nurse; so if you're not a hundred percent sure do your research.
For me I was kind of deciding between doing adult nursing and mental health nursing, but when I looked into all the kind of different areas that I could have worked in as an adult nurse not all of them appealed to me.
Obviously when you're training you're going to have to do placement in all the different areas before you qualify and I knew that if I ended up in a placement area that I didn't like I was going to really struggle to complete my degree.
However, when I looked into mental health nursing there weren't really any areas that I was like ‘oh god don't work there’, so that's why I went into mental health because I knew that I was going to enjoy the overall process a lot more than I would have with adult nursing.
For example, if for all of my placement I knew I wouldn’t be areas that I didn’t like then maybe I would have loved it, however that isn't gonna happen so do your research and make sure you're aware of all the different areas that you could be working on in your field of Nursing.
I know that kind of sounds like a negative but it's actually a really good thing because it means that you're gonna have so much experience that, at the end of your training, you're gonna go ‘wow I didn't think I would enjoy this area but now I really love it’.
When I started my training, my plan was to go into prisons when I qualified.
I really wanted work in either standard prisons or high security units and now I have completely changed my mind and I'm going into a completely different area.
It's such a fantastic opportunity to have a wide range of experience but just do your research and make sure you understand what is really involved.
There are some useful blogs on nurses.co.uk to help with your research.
Browse around the blogs on this site and start your research here!
You've really got to understand what it is you're getting yourself in for because that's going to help you further down the line when you're trying to write a personal statement and attend interviews.
Really having a thorough understanding of Nursing and the issues that face nurses today is going to help you massively so I would start doing that as early as you possibly can in your application process.
Choose your university
The next stage in the process to choose a university or a group of universities that you want to apply to.
Obviously for some people your options are going to be limited; if you want to stay at home whilst you study then that’s absolutely fine if that's the decision that you want to make but if you do want to move somewhere else, which is what I did, it's really important to understand the pros and cons of each University, where they're based and the trusts that they are associated with.
Although nursing education is quite standardized in the sense that we all need to do similar things in order to gain registration with the nursing council, your experience is going to differ a little bit depending on the university you go to.
So it's worth doing loads of research on the universities before you apply to them.
There are a couple of different comparison sites you can use to look at different things, like cost of living and student satisfaction, so if you've already got a couple universities in mind and you want to compare them that is a great resource.
For me a big factor my decision making was looking at the trust that I was gonna be training in so usually different universities will be kind of attached to different trusts.
In my case I had come across SLAM which stands for South London and Maudsley because they're based in central London.
They have, I believe, one of if not the widest range of services in the whole country so I immediately knew that wanted to train in SLAM and only three universities send their students there; Greenwich, South Bank, and Kings.
When I went to visit Greenwich I wasn't as keen on it.
For me personally I don't know what it was but it just didn't really click with me.
When I was choosing between South Bank and Kings, I couldn't afford the student halls at Kings which I would have needed to live at because I'd been living away from home, so for me South Bank was the best option.
Wherever you choose to go you're gonna be there for three years so it's worth putting in the research to make sure it's somewhere that you are going to get the best that you possibly can out of your degree.
Create your personal statement
So once you've chosen the universities that you want to apply to the next stage of your application is gonna be your personal statement.
For me a personal statement needs to say three things.
1. The first thing is that you thoroughly understand what it is to be a mental health nurse whatever branch of Nursing you're applying for, you know what the role of a nurse is and what that kind of job entails.
2. The second thing you should mention is why you want to be a nurse, what was it that made you interested in that field, at what point did you realize you were really interested in it and what have you done to further that interest.
3. The third part should be why you are suitable for the role that you've just outlined.
What transferable skills do you have that are going to make you a great nurse?
Now, if like me you're going into this straight out of school it's very unlikely that you're gonna have any health care experience.
Obviously if you've worked as a carer or a support worker before then great, definitely mention that, but I didn't have any experience before and yet I still managed to get on the course.
One of the things that I spoke about in my personal statement is transferable skills so if you've worked in a charity shop or in a supermarket before you might think that's not relevant to nursing, but actually it shows that you've got great people skills and great communication skills.
You could maybe talk about how you worked as a team or maybe talked about how it helped you develop your management skills because you're always going to get some customers that are upset when you're working in supermarkets so you could talk about you know how you have to deal with difficult situations.
So while working in a supermarket might not sound that relevant to nursing, there are so many transferable skills that you can say you picked up.
Next stage, gulp… Maths and English test!
The next stage of applying to do nursing, if your personal statement is accepted, is that you'll be invited to do a maths and English test.
Now, I realize this sounds awful but it's actually nowhere near as bad as you're expecting.
The maths is pretty basic: addition, subtraction, multiplication and divisions. It's nothing complicated.
You need at least a C at GCSE maths to get into nursing in the first place and if you've got that you will be absolutely fine at doing these maths test.
After the English test all they're looking for is that you could write in sentences and communicate a point clearly - when you're writing patients’ notes people need to understand what you're saying so that nothing gets missed and patient care doesn't suffer so they'll probably ask you to write about something completely random.
They just want to check that you can write in a cohesive way that somebody else can understand and then when you pass those you will then be invited to an interview (which I've made a whole video about interview advice so I'll link that up there for you to check it out) and if you don't pass first time that's absolutely fine because most universities will invite you to have multiple chances to do so.
And that is the whole process of start to finish of getting into Nursing at University.
As I said the key thing is research, you need to show in your personal statement and your interview that you know what you're getting yourself into you know what you're applying for.
They want to see that you are committed to this because at the end of the day it's not an easy degree.
It is a challenge but it is so so worth it and all you need to show them throughout the application process is that you are dedicated and you know what you getting yourself in for, so if you are applying to do nursing at university I wish you the best of luck.
I hope to see you all as nurses one day in the future.
Useful Links about Mental Health Nursing
> Patient centred care in mental health (Apr 2018)
> Why I became a Mental Health Nurse (October 2017)
> An RMN puts the P into Psychiatric nursing (Jan 2015)
> Gemma Morgan - mental health nursing student (March 2011)
> Dan Yates - mental health nursing student (June 2011)
> How to become a Mental Health Nurse RMN (Jan 2011)
> Samuel Adara - Mental Health Nurse (Jan 2011)
> RMN nurse jobs (Sept 2010)
Useful links about student nursing and university
> A nursing degree is not easy but it is rewarding (Oct 2018)
> A day in the life of a student nurse (Oct 2018)