How do I find a good nursing course in Clearing?

How to find the course that's right for you

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?

As of late July, UCAS listed 311 nursing courses from 82 UK providers in Clearing. With all that choice on offer, how do you decide?

You can expect most of those courses to have certain things in common:

  • They will be overseen by the Nursing & Midwifery Council
  • Full-time courses will be three years long
  • A split between learning and teaching activities such as guided independent study and practical experience
  • 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, it all starts with your GCSEs. If you have acquired your GCSEs and they are graded 4/C or higher, including English language, maths and science, then you are well on your way to applying for a place on a nursing degree course. Alternatively, a level 3 vocational course in science or health and social care may be accepted as well as some other alternative qualifications.

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 is far more than the grades.

There is an expectation that all candidates hold nursing values, which includes commitment, compassion and competence, the courage to speak up when we have concerns and to have the personal strength and vision to innovate and to embrace new ways of working.

As Modupe Oshadiya, a senior teaching fellow in mental health nursing at King’s College London says: "It is about managing expectations, that of what the patient and their family expect of me and ultimately challenging myself to match those expectations every day."

Pick your speciality

Not all nursing degrees are the same. It is tremendously important to research the differences in adult, child and mental health nursing so you know which nursing pathway is right for you. You can visit individual courses pages and chat to current students to help you reach what is a key decision.

Those who study nursing are as diverse as the profession itself. People of all ages, cultures and backgrounds join the profession because nursing will give them a great start to their careers. That diversity means you’ll always fit in, and always have something new to learn.

Throughout the nursing course you’ll experience a huge range of environments – both simulated and real. Whether it’s through primary healthcare, an ambulance service or a voluntary organisation, you’ll gain a thorough understanding of the sector.

It’s rewarding work. But it’s not all hands-on. Evidence-based care is central to everything you will do. So you’ll have plenty of opportunities to learn the theory behind your practice. You will learn cutting-edge ideas in healthcare, and pioneer your own research into new techniques and concepts. There is a culture of innovation in nursing and trainee nurses are right at the heart of this.

As Charles Sinden, a third year Adult Nursing BSc student at King’s says, “You end up being taught the latest evidence and leading research across all the nursing specialities – both the theory and application in clinical practice. The key is deciding which pathway is suitable for you, personally and professionally."  

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. Most importantly, the location may have a serious influence on the quality of placement opportunities available to you – both nationally and as elective opportunities abroad.

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

Nursing graduates are well respected in the healthcare sector. Many nursing courses have a tremendously high employability rate. For example, at King’s College London 96% of their nurses have found work six months after finishing their course (Unistats 2018).

Placements are key in terms of job prospects. Trusted degree course partners are always keen to employ students who know the hospital and area, rather than someone who 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. Your registration with the Nursing and Midwifery Council means you can work with healthcare providers anywhere in the country.

You could enter into work in GP surgeries, residences, clinics, hospices, the pharmaceutical industry, even the military.

Transport is also an area to consider. Several 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. Major cities such as London can be beneficial in this respect in not only providing world-class placement opportunities but also the travel infrastructure to get you there.

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.

Stay calm

If you have the right qualifications, then you should have nothing to fear from Clearing.

All universities are well-versed in the system and have calm and reassuring staff at the other end of the phone.

Adult Nursing BSc student Katherine Hawley is also a recruitment assistant for healthcare courses at King’s College London during the Clearing process.

“It is really easy and friendly," she says. "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. We are not trying to trip you up or catch you out – we just want to make sure you have the professional qualifications needed to undertake the course”

“Clearing can be a bit of a hectic process though - we advise you to always ring and to try and keep your options open. The earlier you contact us, 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.

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