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Becoming a Student Nurse (and a bit of a whinge)

Becoming a Student Nurse (and a bit of a whinge)

This post was featured, in part, in RCN Bulletin.

Earlier this year I had a vision. Well, a thought. I felt like a lot was very, very superficial in my life. I know some things are always more important than others, and I know what’s low on my table might be high on someone else’s. I’m not silly enough to think everyone should think like me (or we’d have a nation of cat worshippers. I know it worked out well for the ancient Egyptians but that’s neither here nor there) but I felt something was lacking. I would come home from work feeling, well, pointless. Anyone could do what I do. No one even knows what I do half the time. I was drained, but in a ‘wow my life is getting dull’ way.

I knew I had the potential to be so much more. Mum always wanted to be a nurse and was brilliant in any crisis. Dad always had a mind for maths and science and always had a calm head on him. And my sister Lou was the gifted one when it came to biology and chemistry. We all had the capability, so why wasn’t I doing something about it?

Starting my student nurse journey

So, in January, I decided it was time to quit my job and start an Access to Higher Education diploma in Nursing. I found a part-time job, with plans to complete the course at leisure and apply for university in September 2017, or even March 2018 if I felt like it. I had three universities in my sights: Anglia Ruskin University which is based in Chelmsford, Cambridge and my hometown of Peterborough, King’s College London based in, well, London, and University of Essex based in Southend. Plenty of time to decide.

nursing quoteExcept the government had other plans. Not content with kicking disabled people out of their houses, or calling a referendum which has ruined a generation’s travel and work plan, or screwing over junior doctors, or raising VAT, or basically saying they want full access to anyone’s phone willy nilly, or turning schools into academies and naffing off the curriculum, or or or… they had plans to remove the NHS bursary, a financial lifeline for thousands. Plans that earlier this summer were confirmed as definitely happening. Because honestly, doesn’t removing caked-on faeces from a human body, performing last offices on patients, and generally mopping up urine and vomit sound like a course worth paying for?

This bursary, offered as part-payment for student nurses who are required to complete around and about 2,500 hours working within the NHS over their three year course, is now going to be replaced with good ol’ tuition fees and loans. Meaning from 2017, student nurses are basically paying to work for the NHS. They take out a loan, they work on wards, they qualify, they then pay off all that lovely time working on wards for the next three decades.

Unlike other courses, where students can turn up to lectures if they want, work a part-time job if they want, and breeze through if they want, nurses are required to attend ALL lectures, work a certain number of nights, Bank Holidays and weekends, and make up lost placement hours on their own time. Working part-time and studying isn’t possible because to nurses, it’s like a full time job from day 1. Don’t do the hours, don’t qualify.

To me, that’s not fair. But without getting too politically bitter about the whole thing, it’s totally expected by a government run by Etonians and people whose parents own millions in property and other delectable assets and wouldn’t really know debt unless it’s a £2.4m mortgage on a 4 bed townhouse in Knightsbridge (part paid by expenses of course).

nursing quote 3

So, my plans had to change. Ain’t no way I was going to owe £60k when I graduated. My Access course was sped up. Instead of taking one year, I had to finish in three months. Could it be done? A lot of people – including those on my course – weren’t convinced. I wasn’t convinced. But it had to be done. It was going to be incredibly tough, given the last time I was in any form of education was 2002. I was going to do it.

AND DID IT I, er, DID. That’s right. In June I finished the course with 33 distinctions, and 6 merits. And I applied (very late) for a place in my chosen unis (and a few extras just in case). After a rigorous interview process, I withdrew from my extra choices and managed to get three offers from my chosen options. I firmed my first choice, ARU, and kept KCL as my insurance.

nursing quote 2jpg

So, that’s life right now. In September I start my three year course. I know it’s going to be difficult. And I know I’m going to want to quit at least 17 times in the first term. I know it’ll mean lots of sacrifice for me and David. But if I can be known as ‘that nurse who really made mum’s last few days so pleasant’ or ‘that nurse who was so good to us when dad broke his leg’ or ‘that nurse who really cared’ then surely being that nurse is worth it all.

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I'm Laura. I write most of the stuff on six out of ten magazine, as well as other places all over the web and in printed words. I'm a fan of travel (clearly), good cocktails, and anything sweet.

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  • Wow what an achievement! Congratulations, it must have taken so much effort to do all that in such a short space of time. Nursing is such a brave career choice that doesn’t get enough recognition but can make the world of difference at a pretty bad point in someone else’s life (or day, week, month). My mum had MND and she saw a mixture of the good and then the largely absent nurses, but the good did make all the more easier for everyone involved. They’re usually the ones you remember too. Best of luck with the next three years!

    • Thank you so much! I agree, there are a lot of jaded nurses – the phrase ‘eat their young’ comes up a lot when they mentor is student nurses! But there’s nothing better than having a career that gives you purpose. Let’s see how I get on!

  • This is amazing – it’s people like you that make this country great – no thanks to those Etonians

    • Ah, thanks lovely. I do think everyone who works in politics should be made to get a job in healthcare, food service and cleaning. Would help them see just what real life is for some.

  • Well done for being so brave and making that step. I just spent two weeks in hospital and I was lucky to have only amazing nurses who made my stay despite the circumstances very pleasant. Good luck to you and keep us informed about your journey. x

    • Ah thank you lovely! I really hope you’ll be on the mend soon, it must be so frustrating not to be able to walk. Hope you’re recovering from everything, and definitely rest up while you can x

  • You are an inspiration xx I’m honoured to have watched you on your journey x

  • SandyGirl12

    Can you explain what you need to do to go to uni to nurse?

    • Of course. If you’re a mature student an Access to Higher Education course in Nursing/Allied Health Professions is a great start – unis have their own requirements but most of the time you’ll need to get distinctions in the modules. And you’ll need 3-5 A-C GCSEs, again these can be from when you were back at school or newly taken.

  • Kara

    Congratulations on your success and good luck with university! x

  • Beautyqueenuk

    I just want to say well done you for getting as far as you have and I am wishing you lots of luck for the future but secondly, the Government isn’t run by Old Etonians x

  • Cuppa Char

    Your my inspiration thank you for sharing

  • Selena V

    Don’t get me started on this corrupt excuse for a government!!

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