Nursing is a very rewarding career, but it’s also a challenging and highly responsible one that requires years of study. The most common route to becoming a nurse is to complete a nursing degree, which are offered on full- and part-time bases at institutions all over the country. Though in today’s world, several universities now offer accelerated nursing programs online.
These usually have a set of minimum entry requirements: most will need you to have at least five GCSEs and two A levels or equivalent, although don’t worry if you don’t have these – Access to Nursing courses are designed to equip potential students with the knowledge and qualifications they need to enter a nursing degree.
When you begin a degree in nursing, you will need to choose which of the four branches of the discipline to specialise in: adult, mental health, learning disabilities or children’s nursing. Some universities offer dual branch courses in two areas of nursing, although these take four years to complete instead of the usual three.
A degree programme comprises 50 per cent theory and 50 per cent practice: in other words, you’ll spend half your time studying at university and the other half in placements learning the job you will be doing every day when you qualify. While studying, you may also get the opportunity to learn alongside students in other healthcare professions, including midwifery, pharmacy and occupational therapy.
Here’s a brief overview of what the four main disciplines of nursing involve:
Adult – This offers the broadest amount of opportunities to work in nursing, from hospitals to retirement homes, health centres and community services. After you have qualified you may decide to specialise in further area, such as accident and emergency care or women’s health.
Children’s nursing – This means nursing for 0-18-year-olds and may include working in baby care units, children’s hospitals and schools. As well as learning to support and care for children of a variety of ages, you will be taught how to advise parents and guardians on their child’s welfare.
Learning disabilities – This means helping people who have learning disabilities to lead full and independent lives and being there for them when they need help. You may also choose to specialise in areas like epilepsy management or working with deaf or blind people.
Mental health – Mental health nurses help to coordinate care for people with mental illnesses, the majority of whom live in the community. You will work with GPs, social workers and psychiatrists and may have opportunities to specialise in rehabilitative treatment and substance misuse.