Working together, improving lives

September 2023

What Does It Take To Become A Nurse? - Education, Experience and Employment

Now that the academic year is well and truly underway, many students will be embarking on their first, second or third year of studies to become a qualified professional in the field of Nursing and Healthcare. An undergraduate degree is the most typical route for a student to take when considering their future career as a Nurse. But what else is required in addition to this? Stick around because we’ll be exploring what it takes to become a Nurse in today’s blog!

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Where it all begins…

Becoming a nurse is a rewarding and noble career path that requires resilience, dedication and a genuine passion for caring for others. This journey typically begins through education. Good A-level results are required and it is important to consider which A-Levels will provide the best opportunity when considering undergraduate university courses too, for example, choosing studies that best reference the culture of Nursing and Healthcare. This might include; Physics, Biology or Chemistry, for example.

Once sufficient A-Levels have been obtained it’s now time to consider options for universities and their courses. According to The Complete University Guide, the best institutions for Nursing include; The University of Sheffield, The University of Glasgow, The University of Edinburgh, and in fourth place, The University of Manchester, however, it is important to stress that all universities will provide you with the skillset and learning required to succeed as Nurse, it is your willingness to learn that will reap the best results! It is also important to consider which area of Nursing appeals to you most and therefore which course is best suited to you. This is because it is a specialist career, with areas including; Adult Nursing, Paediatric Nursing, General Nursing and Learning Disability Nursing.

Most Nursing degrees in the UK are three years long and combine theoretical coursework and clinical placements in various healthcare settings. During this period of time, students will gain knowledge in areas such as anatomy, pharmacology and patient care, while also developing essential skills such as communication and critical thinking.

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Bettering your success with additional experience…

During the three years of an undergraduate course, it is not uncommon for students to look at options for employment on the side, both to facilitate their student spending habits, but also to gain real-world experience that may well be applied to their study. Often, this experience does prove invaluable and in addition to being a great example of what to expect in the industry once graduated, it also provides additional skills such as time management, organisation and inter-personal communication that builds strong relationships and benefits the chances of success.

Many students will consider a Healthcare Recruitment Agency whilst studying, and they are a great option for a number of reasons! For example, Dean Healthcare provides the opportunity to work temporary and permanent roles with the former being best suited to a student whose university city may be away from home. We also consider flexible working options, to ensure a healthy balance can be had between work, study and leisure and to facilitate times where a student may be more or less busy dependent on their circumstances, such as, revising for an upcoming exam. In addition to this, we provide weekly pay and holiday pay as well as ongoing training and development which can be utilised towards a university degree.

You can read more about striking a balance between working and studying in our dedicated blog, with tips for success HERE.

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Considering an apprenticeship…

For some, the option to study full time might not be a practical solution and an apprenticeship may fair better. Degree apprenticeships in the field of Nursing are a popular choice as they provide opportunities to gain qualifications needed to become a Nurse, whilst earning a wage at the same time. It is a particularly attractive option because the employer pays for training, and in some cases, there are opportunities to progress further into permanent employment once the apprenticeship has ended.

A degree apprenticeship differs slightly from the traditional study route in that, the majority of learning, training and development is practical with less time spent in a classroom and as a result takes longer to complete, however, apprentices typically work under the guidance of an experienced Registered Nurse which can reap many benefits including great experience from those who know best about the industry.

Applying for a Nursing degree apprenticeship works in the same way as a regular job role. There will still be requirements for education, such as good A-level results in a field related to Nursing and previous work experience in a similar care-environment may also be favoured.

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What are the options for a mature student…

Of course, the path to becoming a qualified Nurse is slightly different for a mature student, that is, someone typically over the age of 30. This could be down to a number of reasons, firstly, they may work full-time with commitments or responsibilities that make full-time education difficult to undertake or because they might not have obtained the correct A-Levels required for entry into an institution when studying as a teenager or early adult. In either of these cases, there are alternatives which means a career in Nursing is still possible.

Because Nurses are highly sought after in the UK, there are many universities or colleges which offer extended courses which help facilitate those unable to commit to full-time study. Where a typical course would take three years to complete, there are options for four or five year courses too, with that latter being most common. College courses also allow someone to gain the necessary exposure to the industry with good experience, though it should be noted a university grade will always be the preferred option for an employer.

Apprenticeships are a great option for those who can’t commit to an undergraduate university degree or college course because they provide an element of flexibility, whilst still being able to earn income from their time involved. Additionally, the route of a Nursing Associate would favour someone who requires the experience to progress in the field, though in some cases, correct GCSE and A-Level grades are permitted. Training as a Nursing Associate will typically take two years, and after this time a person would be qualified as a Band 4 Nursing Associate.

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Finding your dream role…

After all that studying, it’s time to embark on the exciting journey of finding a dream role within the healthcare sector. Nurses in the UK have a wide variety of options for employment, including; Hospital Nursing, Community Nursing, Mental Health Nursing and Research Nursing, to name but a few. There are also options to pursue advanced practice roles, including; Nurse Practitioners, Nurse Anaesthetics, Midwifery and Clinical Nurse Specialists. These roles do require further education and certification, but can give increased autonomy and the opportunity to provide specialist care to a variety of different people in the community.

The added benefit of choosing to study a course related to Nursing is that the sector is always growing and there is a high-demand for graduate Nurses. 94% of Nursing graduates find employment in the industry within the first 6 months of completing their degree, therefore there are a lot of opportunities to be had. When considering a dream role as a Nurse, it is essential to reflect on personal interests, strengths and long-term career aspirations. In some cases, qualifications and experience in Nursing can be interchangeable with the ability to work varied Nursing roles throughout your career. It is important, however, to take the time to explore different specialities during any clinical placements or in an early Nursing career to gain a better understanding of what resonates with you and sets you up for success.

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Additional skills for success…

Succeeding in the field of Nursing is not just about the qualifications that can be obtained or the experience had in a clinical or care environment. There are also certain personal skills that are deeply beneficial. These can include; Compassion and empathy and the ability to connect with people on a human level and understand their emotional needs. Effective communication to ensure clear understanding of the needs of others with strong teamwork. The ability to adapt to new situations, experiences and technologies too, as the field is dynamic and ever-changing. Applying critical thinking in the face of complex situations with the ability to make sound decisions. As well as being mentally and physically resilient as these roles can often be demanding.

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Becoming a Nurse in the UK is a challenging but deeply fulfilling journey. Whether you choose the traditional degree path or opt for an apprenticeship, the skills you cultivate along the way will not only enhance your learning, but also, contribute to your success as a compassionate and skilled Nurse in the industry. We hope you’ve found the following information to be of interest and to help guide your own journey through Nursing from education and experience, through to employment.

If you’d like to see our other dedicated Student Nursing blogs, please click the links below to our recent blog entries. You can also follow us on social media for more insightful content. Just search for @deanhealthcare on all your favourite platforms.

Working Whilst Studying: Can it be done?

Resources for Student Nurses: print and online material

Our 10 Top Tips for Students Enrolling in Nursing and Healthcare Courses