Over the years, nursing has become one of the more popular Clearing courses.
But with literally hundreds of courses to pick from and very little time to make your mind up, how do you pick the one that's right for you?
Are all nursing courses the same?
According to UCAS, there are 432 nursing courses available from 99 UK providers.
Of course, not all of these will be available through Clearing. But, with all that choice on offer, how do you decide?
All of those courses will have things in common:
- They will be overseen by the Nursing & Midwifery Council
- Full-time courses will be three years long
- A 50/50 split between theory and practical
- A variety of placements will be offered
But, beyond this, there are lots of factors to weigh up before choosing a course that’s right for you.
Get your grades
For a nursing degree, you will usually need five GCSEs (A-C) including maths, English and science, plus at least two A-levels with one in a science or health-related subject. Alternatively, a level 3 vocational course in science or health and social care may be accepted.
The reason for this is that some academia is needed in carrying out core duties, such as taking patient notes, assessing medical needs and prescribing medication.
But nursing far more than the grades.
There is an expectation that all candidates hold nursing values, which includes commitment, dignity and respect to others and a courage to speak up.
As one leading practitioner said, "There is a common saying in nursing that you treat people as you would like your relatives to be treated."
Pick your speciality
Not all nursing degrees are the same.
As Linda Dean, senior lecturer in child nursing at the University of Bedfordshire explains, there are four main types of nursing courses: adult; mental health; child; and learning disability.
As the degree progresses, your specialism will become more and more focused. It's best to decide which area you're most interested in as early as possible, as it can be difficult to switch courses further down the line.
"The courses we offer are very different," says Linda. "Many elements in year one will be the same, as we cover core topics like professional issues, anatomy and physiology. But there will always be one first year unit which is specific to the chosen field.
"It's really important that people do their research before they apply so they know which part of nursing is right for them." You can research courses by looking online or going to a university open day.
Location, location, location
For many students, location is a priority when picking a university. But, when going through Clearing, sometimes it’s easy to forget this.
Before you accept a course, look at where you could be based and think about aspects such as accommodation, city life and travel.
And remember that many universities have multiple campuses, so double-check exactly where you will be before you apply.
There are other factors to consider too, such as the structure of the course and the quality of the facilities on offer.
Think about your job prospects
Placements are key in terms of job prospects.
Trusted degree course partners are always keen to employ students who know the hospital and area than someone that doesn't. So, there is a high chance that where you study could be the place where you get your first job.
Also, while the qualification is the same wherever you go, those with particular interests may want to think about potential specialisms. For instance, a hospital next to a major motorway is more likely to have major A&E cases than a community facility in the countryside.
Transport is also an area to consider. A number of acute hospitals could be quite a distance from where you are studying. Student nurses work shifts with early starts and late finishes so you need to ensure you can travel safely to and from your placements.
Most universities will have placement offices to make sure you get a range of experiences which suit your situation, so be sure to speak to someone if you have any concerns.
If you have the right qualifications, then you should have nothing to fear from Clearing.
All universities are well-versed with the system and have calm and reassuring staff at the other end of the phone.
As well as being a lecturer, Linda Dean is also the recruitment lead for healthcare courses at the University of Bedfordshire. She has spent many years helping with the Clearing process.
She said: “It is relatively easy. What we would do is take some basic information over the phone and, if the candidate meets the criteria, then we would offer them an interview for the following week.
“Clearing places do go quite quickly though so I always advise candidates to always ring and to try and keep your options open. The earlier you ring, the more likely you'll be able to secure your place."
And for those who are unable to get a space, university staff will still be able to advise you of any other options that may be open to you.
Some run two intakes a year, meaning courses start in February as well as September; others will give advice on how you can get the right qualifications to get on the degree next time round.