Wednesday, 30 May 2012

The Basic Facts of Nursing:

Let’s talk about the ABCs of Nursing – for once I’m not talking about your Airway, Breathing and Circulation (of ABCDE assessment) but actually the basics about doing a Nursing course. Let’s assume you have read my suggested book by Sarah Snow “Get Into Nursing & Midwifery: A Guide to Application and Career Success” or have done an Access Course or have already the prerequisite Level 3 work. On top of that you get short-listed to an interview and pass the required Maths & Literacy tests prior to the interview. Having passed that, you go to the interview and you simply wow the panel and you get it! They offer you your desired place in the branch of your choice. Well done you!!

                You will have many days in placement where the other posts will make more sense. But this one is about the FAQs potential students ask all the time. Money. Time. Childcare. Weeks of study. Holidays.

                First things first: I’ve stated this before; it’s worth mentioning again. Nursing is very competitive – DO NOT APPLY LATE. The deadline for UCAS is the 15th January – don’t be late if you really, really want to be considered for a place. At present, most universities have two intakes – September and May (or this may be March) but two intakes nevertheless. It’s up to you which one you’d prefer but applying for September does not guarantee you a place in May should that be full as people will have applied for May and there are fewer places on the May cohort. To increase your chances, do not apply late. Just in case it hasn’t been said enough: don’t apply late!
                Time. You’re not going to have lots of it. Other students, such as the ones who do humanities subjects, go to university for 24 out of the 52 weeks of a year. They have 2 hours of lectures per week per module. I don’t know what they do with their time but nor will you, dear nursing student. You will have 45 weeks of studying and/or working in placement which is full-time hours of 37.5 hours a week. Work and placements are done in blocks of time so you will have up to 7 weeks of time at university, doing theories and/or assessments and then you will have 12 weeks out in placement, of which you may have to change placement areas every 2 weeks. In your management placement (your last placement before you qualify) you will do 16 weeks in the same place, but that is the exception.
University time spent in lectures is from Monday to Friday, 9 to 5 pm, including any group work or skills lab you may have. When you’re finally used to this routine, it’s time to go to hospital or community for your placement. This will vary enormously and the times may be Monday to Friday, 9 to 5pm or it may be the hospital rota of 37.5 hours per week of any day or night at the usual shift pattern of 12.5 hours per shift (with an hour’s break), over 3 days for 3 weeks and 4 days one week.
What about holidays, you ask? Students seem to have an abnormal amount of time on their hands. Every day is a holiday. My friend, this will not be your student experience. Student nurses have 7 weeks off a year and that’s it. “Great”, you may think, “I’ll take the 7 weeks in January when it’s filthy weather in England and go to Costa Rica for an extended surfing holiday. It’ll be surfing, casado and coconuts for me every day”. Not so, amigo. Holidays are set – those 7 weeks are set this way: 2 weeks at Christmas, 2 weeks at Easter and 3 weeks in August (which are also the times when air fares/holidays are the most expensive). As a student nurse you will get more holiday as a student then you will as a newly qualified Band 5 nurse (you only get 27 days) however compared to other student, it’s shameful. They get the 2 weeks in Christmas and Easter and break up in June and return in August. Oh the envy!
Time and attendance go hand in hand. A condition of your bursary is that you go to lectures and attend placement. If you don’t, you may be withdrawn from the course. The Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) set the hours you must have in order to go on the registrar: 2,300 hours in placement and 2,300 hours at university. Its simple maths: if you don’t have the hours, you can’t be a registered nurse (yes, it’s a strict course). Also, if your hours don’t add up, you may be able to redo them but it will be without any bursary or funding and who can afford to do that?
Let’s talk money then. In order to study nursing you must be eligible for a bursary. I won’t cover every single case here but suffice to say that if you’re an EEU national and have lived in the UK for 3 years, you should be okay (however you need to check this out as this is not an assessment of your circumstances). Anyway, it’s important that you are eligible for the bursary (even if you could pay your own way) because as there is no tuition fees for the nursing courses, the university get money per student eligible for bursary. This doesn’t affect your bursary or loan or amount that you would receive – it’s simply how the university gets paid and why it’s unlikely they will take anyone who doesn’t qualify for the bursary.
Nursing courses are offered at a graduate degree level now. For bursaries, this means a slight change. All eligible students are eligible for a £1,000 grant each year. This is yours to keep; you won’t have to pay back. Then you may be eligible for an additional means-tested bursary of up to £5,460 (as Uni of Greenwich is in London). Means-tested bursary will take into account your parents’, spouses’ and/or partners’ income as well as any other income you may have; however this bursary also doesn’t need to be paid back. You may also choose to apply for a loan from Student Finance England of up to £3,263 – this will need to be paid back. So that may be up to £9,723 for a year (if you were single, living in London, without children and not living with your parents). If you have children, you may also be eligible for Dependents Allowance or Parental Learning Allowance. (No tuition fees, bursary and a rewarding career, you’re starting to understand why there is so much competition).However you slice it though – expect difficult financial times ahead of you. One of the top reasons students leave this course is financial. Not only are you low on money but you also don’t have a lot of time to find work to boost your income. Students have been known to do bank shifts at hospitals and they have more money but are also more exhausted than your regular poor student nurse.
Childcare. If you have children, you will need to consider what you will do with your enchanting offspring. As mentioned above, you may be eligible for Dependents Allowance but you may also be required to use an approved child minder. Again, you will need to check this out. I guarantee you though at that some point in your interview and also at the start of the course it will be said that you need to make suitable arrangements for child care and that you cannot miss lectures or placements because of childcare. It’s very tricky. Of course there are days that you cannot go because you’re child is ill but if you consistently start missing classes or placement, this will be picked up.
Money. Time. Childcare. Weeks of Study. Holidays. I hope I’ve covered the basics but if you want more information, just ask. 

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