How To Become A Nurse

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how to become a nurse Being a nurse is one of the most rewarding jobs in the world, and one of the few that allows you to make a real difference to people's lives day in and day out. While it subsequently comes out top in job satisfaction, with those in the profession typically getting much more out of their jobs than your average office worker, it is also incredibly challenging both mentally, emotionally and physically, and not everyone is up for the job. Qualifications and training aside, it takes a special kind of person to thrive in the nursing world, with a caring and resilient personality being not simply desirable but an absolute necessity. 

Before considering becoming a nurse or looking into a career in nursing, it is important to understand just what the role actually involves. Many people think nurses are confined to hospital wards and do the same things on a daily basis, but this is not necessarily the case, and the nursing profession can be incredibly diverse and multifaceted.

Qualifying as a nurse opens you up to a wealth of opportunity, as nurses are needed not just in hospitals but also in clinics, residential homes, education, schools, on cruise ships, aeroplanes, the pharmaceutical industry and even in the military; not to mention there are multiple divisions, many of which are specialist, within the nursing sector itself. Whatever the area or role, being a nurse will always involve caring, listening, nurturing, communicating and team work, with patience and compassion being exercised on a daily basis. 

In this article on How To Become A Nurse, we will take an in depth look at the skills and qualifications required to get into the industry, focusing in particular on undergrad studies, postgraduate courses in nursing and how they can enhance not only your chance of becoming a nurse and landing a job in the first place, but also your performance and suitability to the nursing profession itself, thus ensuring you are able to go from strength to strength, and enjoy and sustain a long, stable career in the medical field. 

What undergraduate qualifications are needed?

To become a nurse you have to undergo training, and to do this attending university is a requirement. Enrolling onto an undergraduate degree program is just the beginning, and you will need a number of GCSEs and A Levels to be accepted to begin with. Although different universities have different entry requirements, the more prestigious amongst them being more rigorous and demanding, the minimum is usually five GCSEs at grade A to C (which must include English and at least one science based subject) and at least two, though ideally three, A Levels. Some universities may be more flexible and also accept alternative qualifications, such as a BTEC, though this will vary from place to place.

You will need to complete an undergraduate bachelors degree in any area of nursing, typically lasting 4 or 5 years if studied on a full-time basis. If you are looking to specialise in a particular area, it is advisable that you apply for a course that focuses on that division, for example Adult and Child, Mental Health or Learning Disabilities. 

What are my postgraduate options?

Though a 4 or 5 year undergraduate degree may sound like a lifetime, the reality is that it is nothing in the grand scheme of things, and it will fly by and be over before you know it. The training you get in those few years will prove invaluable, beneficial and necessary throughout your career, however you will also come to realise that it is also relatively basic when considered alongside the kind of work and challenges you are faced with on a day-to-day basis, and that most undergrad degrees offer quite general training, so if you are looking to specialise in a particular area, you may want to consider one of the postgraduate courses that focus on this. Quite simply, you can never be too prepared for a job in the medical profession, and the more training you undergo the better you will be and the more you will excel.

It is important to remember that nursing is an increasingly competitive profession, and though nurses will always be in high demand, there will always be more applicants than jobs, and it is more important than ever to make yourself stand out and set yourself apart from other applicants. Alongside work experience, something we will look into later on, obtaining a postgraduate degree is one of the best ways in which you can do this, and though not a formal requirement for your average nursing job, they are becoming more and more desirable by employers and will drastically boost your chances.

Postgraduate nursing courses available

There are many different postgraduate courses in nursing available, and what kind you study and where you will go to do study your postgraduate course, will depend largely on the grade you obtained at undergrad level and which division you wish to specialise in. You will want to look at Nursing, Midwifery or Health Sciences departments at different universities and consider which is best for you. King's College London, Nottingham and City University are all renowned for their nursing studies and training, and you can also search for specific areas via the NHS Careers website. 

King's College London's Florence Nightingale School of Nursing and Midwifery offers a variety of highly reputable taught postgraduate courses and research programmes that will enhance your skills, build on your experience and drastically increase your chances of landing a job in nursing and enjoying career progression in the future.

Course examples include:

- Nursing MSc; Health Studies;Clinical Nursing; Midwifery; An array of Advanced Practice programs
London's City University offers an MSc/Postgrad Diploma in Adult Nursing, a course which gives students the chance to combine theoretical study with clinical experience and is accordingly assessed through both practice and written coursework. 50% of the course is spent in clinical placements, making it the perfect opportunity to get ample experience under your belt whilst also furthering your studies and gaining an award. 

A two year (full time) Nursing/Registered Nurse PgDip is available at Kingston University and is aimed at making sure that you are "prepared for the realities of nursing in the frontline." As with most courses of its kind, it is 50% theory and 50% practice, with the chance to specialise in an area of your choice. Modules include Implementation and Evaluation of Nursing Care, Applying Clinical Reasoning and Decision Making in Nursing and Personal and Professional Development of the Nurse. 

Case study #1

Matthew Adlem, a former postgraduate nursing student at Kingston University, is now working as a practising mental health nurse thanks to the skills, knowledge, connections and support network he obtained during his time at the university, his lecturers' help and the placement he was sent on. In fact, Adlem was offered two jobs before he even finished his examinations.

Case Study #2

Paulina, a postgrad nursing student at London's King's College London, is specialising in Clinical Nursing, a course she says has been "very challenging and stimulating" and has "enhanced my critical thinking skills and improved my learning strategies." On completing her studies she is planning to return to her home country of Ghana and go straight into the nursing profession with her new found skills and expertise.

Will I need work experience?

Nursing is one of those jobs where work experience of some kind is absolutely necessary, and you will most likely have already undergone some to work out whether or not the job is really for you before committing to an undergraduate degree. Training also involves work experience and placements, though it is advisable to get experience outside of your studies, for example over the summer holidays. This will show potential employers how serious you are while also giving you the opportunity to expand your skills, build contacts, gain advice from professionals on how to become a nurse and also put your training into practice.

Applying for jobs

Once you have completed necessary training, obtained a degree and feel you have adequate work experience, it is time to start thinking about applying for a full-time job and get your career in nursing started. Work on building a solid CV, and don't be afraid to ask for help from your place of study or a career advisor. Utilise the internet to search for jobs, and take time and care with each application.

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