From 2013, all courses that allow entry into nursing have been regraded to degree level. Until 2009, only a quarter of all nurses studied for a degree; they did a diploma instead. Although the time taken to achieve the qualification is in some cases the same (3 years, although some Diploma courses were 2 years), the academic focus has become more intense.
The theory behind this is to prepare nurses to cope with increasingly technological medicine and to be able to work more independently. However, many people argue that very able nurses who maybe do not shine academically, may be lost from the profession in the process.
If you are at college, thinking about a career in nursing, you need to consider whether you have the academic interest and capabilities to see through a three-year course. But, as you already probably realise, there is a lot more to nursing than the theory.
As well as thinking about why study nursing, you also have to think about why become a nurse. The practical and emotional side of caring for people who are at their most vulnerable appeals to some people while others would find this very difficult.
Empathy: If you are someone who is interested in medicine but finds it difficult to relate to people from different backgrounds and circumstances, you need to ask yourself if nursing is really for you. There are many other paramedical degrees that will set you on an interesting career path, without necessarily becoming a nurse. If you have a real need to work with people and help them through nursing, the question rather than the degree, becomes academic.
Patience: At 16 or 17, few of us have developed much patience but you will need to have that capacity within you to help patients in difficult circumstances. You may be able to deal with the technological side of nursing, but can you see yourself in the role of a partner in their illness and often painful recovery.
Calm and focus: Patients can deteriorate rapidly and emergency situations need 100% concentration and focus. You need to keep calm, even if you don’t feel calm inside, providing expert medical help and reassurance.
Knowledge: Nursing degrees are as academically rigorous as any other. You need to be able to digest and understand complex information, express yourself in speech and in the written word, and be prepared to work hard to remember key facts.
Team work: Nursing is not a profession for someone who prefers to work alone. Working in a team with other nurses, doctors, other health professionals, the patient and their family is key to providing a good service.
Flexibility: No two days as a nurse are going to be the same. There is endless variety and there are unexpected situations.
Inner strength: You will be there with people at key moments in their life. In the midst of an emergency surgery after an accident, at the birth of a baby, at the death of a beloved parent. Others around you may be in pieces, but you must hold together.
The bottom line is because despite the hard work and the difficulties, nursing is one of the most rewarding things anyone can do for their fellow human being.