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Guide to Studying Nursing in the UK

One thing that’s never going to change throughout the world is the need for top quality nurses, and it makes for a rewarding career for those not daunted by hard work. If you want to become a nurse, the UK has many excellent courses.

What nursing courses are available?

There are various areas of nursing, including adult nursing, children's nursing, learning disability nursing and mental health nursing. Many courses specialise in one of these areas, though there are some where you can study more than one.

All nursing courses need to be approved by the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC), which is the body that regulates the profession in Britain.

To study nursing in the UK, you need the equivalent of two A levels and at least three supporting GCSEs, though some universities will demand higher qualifications. The university holding the course will specify which qualifications from your home country are accepted as the equivalent.

Applicants will also need to be interviewed, so you will be expected to show that you have a keen interest in nursing and are aware of what the duties of a nurse are.

Nursing courses normally last three years, although some in which you study more than one nursing area take four. If you already have a degree, you may qualify for an accelerated course that takes two years.

Currently, the UK is developing nursing apprenticeships that can be studied part-time over four years, although non-EU residents are not normally eligible for these courses.

Competition for places on nursing courses is high, so you need to stand out in order to gain a place.

What are the qualities of a good nurse?

Nursing can be a fascinating and gratifying career. There are several qualities needed for the job, some of which you will likely have already, while others you will learn as a student nurse.

You need empathy for people, but also the emotional stability to cope with distressing situations. You have to have attention to detail and superb interpersonal skills to work with patients and the healthcare team. You should be healthy and physically robust, as nurses often work long and hard hours.

A nurse needs to have the quick reactions necessary when things go wrong. Since you’ll be dealing with emergency situations, you must be able to remain calm and not panic under pressure.

Where should I study nursing in the UK?

The top 10 ranked universities for nursing training, according to the Complete University Guide, are:

  1. Liverpool
  2. Edinburgh
  3. Glasgow
  4. Bradford
  5. Sunderland
  6. Huddersfield
  7. East Anglia
  8. Leeds
  9. Keele
  10. Nottingham

What is the course structure?

Nursing courses have two main elements: theoretical learning and work placement. You will work alongside other health professionals, learning to help care for patients. Some courses split students’ time equally between work experience and study.

Nurses are expected to look after patients, assess their needs, deal with patients’ families and be part of a professional healthcare team. A nursing course trains students in the knowledge and skills required to do this.

Healthcare is an ever changing field, so courses need to keep up to date with the latest changes and technology developments within it. At the end of their courses, successful students receive a degree recognised worldwide in a highly valuable and respected field.

Student nurses can often be faced with distressing situations, especially when it comes to treating young children. It’s therefore important to enjoy days off, relax and unwind. Luckily, British universities are known for their active social life. You can get to know British people and gain an insight into the culture, especially the much discussed sense of humour.

How much does it cost?

Fees for nursing courses vary but can be around £13,000 a year. On top of this, students will need living expenses of about £12,000 a year. London is the most expensive city in the UK to live in.

Visas

To study in Britain, non-European Economic Area (EEA) students (with the exception of those in Switzerland) require a Tier 4 student visa, and there are several steps you need to take in support of your visa application. First, you need confirmation that you have been accepted on a nursing course. You will be requested to submit proof of how you are able to fund both the nursing course fees and your living expenses.

All visa applications require a sponsor, and the university at which you are studying nursing will be licenced to sponsor your application.

A student visa will be valid for the length of your course, but there could be problems if you need to leave the course for a while. To protect yourself, become a member of G8Way Club to protect your Visa. This will cover you for emergencies, such as having to return home because a member of your family has a serious illness. Taking a nursing course in Britain is a serious financial commitment and G8way membership can help protect your investment in your nurse training.

Postgraduate

After you get a degree, plenty of postgraduate courses are available. A range of Master’s courses cover various specialist health areas. You can take a postgraduate course in medical research, or if you want to move into teaching, there are courses available where you can learn how to train nurses.

Getting a nursing job

As nursing is a vocational degree, the majority of graduates will want a job in nursing itself. Most countries accept a degree in adult nursing for nursing jobs, but not every country recognises specialist qualifications such as a mental health nursing degree. If you intend to work in your home country, be sure to check if the nursing qualification you are studying for is recognised as a valid qualification before choosing a course.

Most countries have their own nurse registration organisation similar to the NMC, so you will need to register with it before you can get a job.

Though nursing can be physically and emotionally draining, the satisfaction levels that come with the career, plus the fact that jobs are always available, makes a nursing degree of real value, and there’s nowhere better to get one than in the UK.

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