- 13 November 2018
- 8 min read
How to get into nursing schools in the UK
Children's nurse Grace Barry offers advice on how to get into nursing schools in the UK.
I'm going to be talking to you all about how to get into nursing school in the UK at a university, whether you want to be a child, adult, mental health or learning disability nurse, and I'm going to share with you the relevant experience, what kind of studies and then your interview and selection process to get into University and start your journey of becoming a nurse.
Study and qualifications
Unfortunately you can't get anywhere in your nursing application without the relevant qualifications. In the UK system, after you've completed your GCSEs you're going to do your A-levels or an access to nursing course; these are the two current accepted routes for you to be able to go and carry on and study nursing.
If you are doing or choosing your A-levels most universities that offer a nursing course require you to do a science or social science study at a-level.
The best way to find out what subjects you need to be taking or studying and how many credits you need for your UCAS application will be to choose a University website, go and visit the nursing page and then as an example, listed at the bottom it will say what subject is desirable or required and how many credits are desired or required for you to get onto that course.
If it's been a while since you did your a levels or you decide that you don't want to do your levels and you'd like to go to college instead you can choose the access to nursing course.
I would recommend going and speaking to a careers advisor who will be a specialist - in this if you have any queries or questions if you're in school you can generally get a careers advisor to speak to for free, same if you're in college.
If you go online and look for your local careers advisor office, see if you can go and have a chat to them about your career in nursing and what might be required of you next.
Your qualifications and study are so important, but you might get to your degree and think ‘hang on a minute this isn't for me’ or ‘wow this is amazing I definitely want to be a nurse’.
I feel the best way to do this is either to work or volunteer to get a little bit of experience within healthcare and around nursing settings to see if this is definitely the career for you.
There are also lots of specialisms and different interests within nursing and things that you could consider going into, whether it's paediatrics or adults or if you have a personal life experience, for example if you've been born with a cleft palate or a cardiac problem and this really resonates with you and you'd like to work in neonates within paediatrics or within adult cardiac intensive care this might be a specialism that really resonates with you.
So getting some experience in some of these areas or if you've just seen something and you think that's amazing that might be the specialism for you and that might help you choose what type of nurse you want to be.
Getting some experience can also help you face any fears and phobias that you might have.
Ultimately if you get a little bit of experience you might be in clinical environment you might put your nurse hat on while you're on this experience and think ‘do you know what I'm okay with this I can handle the blood or the needle or the scan I can handle it I can do it I definitely want to be a nurse’.
Applying to be a nurse
Currently in the UK there is still a university degree which is three years to become a nurse. There is no other way around this but they are currently looking at maybe going back to a diploma route or people being trained up to a band four level to be able to possibly administer basic drugs.
There's quite a lot of debate around this at the moment but if you want to be a registered nurse in the UK you will need to complete a three year degree and it's been this way for quite a few years.
When applying through UCAS you will need to write your personal statement and within your personal statement make sure you just really get across your passion for nursing, your relevant experience and if you feel comfortable you could bring any life experiences that you've had into this which you feel might make you a better nurse, more compassionate and more empathetic.
Make sure you also discuss that you've got a good communication skills.
If you want a little cheat sheet for writing your personal statement maybe go on some NHS trust websites have a look at their trust values because their trust values are going to be things that are relevant themes throughout healthcare and nursing, and if you can relate to a few of those trust values bring them in and show how you could demonstrate those and they would make you a good nurse, then that's really important.
If you get through the interview process you will need to get the grades that are required to get on the course or the credits. The application process can vary from university to university as to whether you have to do any entry tests, whether they are online, or you go and sit the test at the University.
Then your interview could be group or one-on-one or with a panel. Look up some interview questions and make sure that you're really interactive, enthusiastic and responsive throughout these interviews.
Don't shy away in the corner and be the person that says nothing because good communication and working within a multidisciplinary team is really very important and at the core of Nursing, so you want to demonstrate that you really have these skills.
Be sure that you know what nurses do and any relevant current things that are going on within nursing so any healthcare investigations, anything that's in the news, and just check on websites like the RCN the NMC to the Royal College of Nursing or the Nursing and Midwifery Council, and see if there's anything relevant on there that you could take forward for your interview.
Entry level exams
Quite often if a university has an entry-level exam it will probably be a mixture of maths and English to assess your literacy, your communication and obviously your mathematical ability.
As a nurse you're going to be working out drug calculations, sometimes giving IV medicines, blood products things like that and you don't want to be getting calculations wrong so you need to have a decent level of mathematical understanding.
These entry exams are always where people contact me and say that they feel the most nervous about them, quite often the English exam. Just go in and think of a few different scenarios that you might be able to talk about. Quite often they'll say ‘write about a time where you showed compassion’ or ‘write about a time where you showed leadership’ and even though this might seem really daunting these are actually quite easy things to relate back to, possibly from your previous work experience.
The maths tasks just ask if you are able to take a calculator in or not. I like to use things like BBC Bitesize - just go back and refresh your GCSE maths basic math skills. They won't be asking you to do high level algebra a level maths so try not to worry too much about that.
Is the course funded?
The course is still funded by the NHS at the moment but you don't receive a bursary so your fees would be paid at this moment in time but you wouldn't really receive any money while you're studying and working full time.
You would have to get your student loan for that so as far as I am aware the bursary is now gone or almost gone but your fees are still funded so you wouldn't have university fees when you go under study to be a nurse, but really make sure that nursing is the career for you before you go and apply because it's all well and good that you would come out of university with no debt but you really have to have a real passion for nursing to get through the three years of your degree because it's very tough but it's more than worth it if you want to be a nurse.
What is the salary like?
These pay scales and banding are available online for anybody to look at - you can google them or go on the NHS website - qualified nurses start at band 5.