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So you want to be a nurse?

Updated on December 20, 2016
Image courtesy of Praisaeng at
Image courtesy of Praisaeng at

No matter what happens in the world – war, financial crisis, terrorist atrocities – we will always need good nurses.

If you are the sort of person who cares for other people, who wants to make a difference in the world, who wants a job with meaning and purpose, nursing could be the career for you.

And, if you are good at nursing, it could be a career that will positively change your life.

My Story

In my case, I’d left school at 16 with hardly any qualifications. I had some excellent office jobs over the years. I ended up earning great money. I was miserable.

I decided that, if I had to work for a living, I wanted to do something that was really worthwhile.

My Nan was a nurse, and a hugely positive part of my life. She helped to bring me up.

As part of one of my work projects, I worked closely with a university. I made some enquiries with their office. I explained that I wanted to know what I needed to do to become a nurse. I confessed to my lack of academic skills.

Access to Learning

With the information I’d gained, I signed up to The Distance Learning Centre’s ‘Access to Nursing’ Diploma. It changed my life. I was able to work full time, and study. If you are reading, and would like to be a nurse but don’t feel you have the academic skills, don’t count yourself out. Consider this. It is possible!

Think about what kind of nursing you are interested in. Would you like to work with children, adults, people with learning disabilities or people with mental health issues? You might even want to be a midwife!

Image courtesy of KROMKRATHOG at
Image courtesy of KROMKRATHOG at


I am terrible at maths. I just am. It is something that will never come naturally to me. I didn’t even pass my maths GCSE! However, the Distance Learning Centre allowed me to complete a GCSE Maths Equivalent as part of my access course. I passed!

Even though I have my maths qualification, I know that maths will be something I must continue to brush up on throughout my career. I must check and double check every reading, every dosage. In one way, I hope that being hyper vigilant will help me to not make mistakes!

Prepare yourself!

Once you are on track with your educational side, you’ll need to address your experience side. I had worked in office environments for my entire career. In order to get some good experience of working with people I volunteered. You must try to get some good experience – not only for your university application, but for your own sense of self. Can you really work in a caring capacity? Can you cope when things go wrong? Can you be a true people person?

Volunteering opportunities are available on the Do-It website

Image courtesy of holohololand at
Image courtesy of holohololand at


Once you take the plunge, you will need to apply to the university of your choice. You may wish to apply for a couple, just in case your first choice doesn’t work out. At the time of writing, applying to Uni through UCAS (the only way you can in the UK) costs £12 to apply to one university, and £23 to apply for multiple universities.

Make sure you check that you have exactly what the university you are applying for requires. Even though nursing should be standardised, courses do vary – as do their entry levels.

The application process is much like you will be familiar with for job applications. You will need to set aside a few hours for it! You need to share;

Personal details (name, address, nationality)
Education history
Employment history
Referee details

The most crucial part of your application will undoubtedly be your ‘Personal Statement’. This is where you will sell yourself, your skills and your experience of caring for others.

The Interview

As nursing courses typically start in autumn and the new year, you may have to wait quite a while for a reply to your application.

Once your application is seen by the uni, if successful you will be invited to interview. Keep up your volunteering during this time, not only to keep your skills fresh, but to add to your examples of good care that you can use at your interview. Don’t simply rely on what you’d mentioned in your personal statement – the university will want to hear more.

You will be expected to pass a maths and English test on the day of the interview. Don’t let these tests put you off – just make sure you prepare. If, like me, you are rubbish at maths, do as many online tests as you can. If English isn’t your forte, practice, practice, practice!

Some sample tests are available here

Image courtesy of pakorn at
Image courtesy of pakorn at

Essential Reading

Every potential student nurse must become very familiar indeed with the following;

The 6 C’s
The NMC Code for Nurses
Patient Voices

I hope that this article has given you something to consider. We need great nurses! I hope to be one myself, one day.

If you follow all of the steps I’ve laid out, you could be in the same positions as I am now. A first year student nurse.

Good luck!


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