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How did you prepare to start your nursing course?


Soon-to-be student nurse, Jade, asks “Should student nurses spend a year working as a HCA before starting their course?”

Jade Day_SNT


In March 2014, I will officially be a student nurse and I absolutely can’t wait.

One of the things I’m most looking forward to is meeting other students, hearing their stories and finding out why they chose nursing. Student nurses come from such a wide range of backgrounds and it’ll be great to hear about other peoples’ experiences.

I’ve been reading in the news lately about students having to have a years’ experience as a healthcare assistant in order to fully understand what you’re “getting yourself in to”. So I’m particularly interested in hearing about what preparation other student nurses did before starting the course. Personally, I have been volunteering for nine months on an orthopaedic ward, which has been so rewarding and given me a real insight in to what to expect during my training and nursing career. Along with doing HCA duties, I get to spend time talking to patients, which to me is so important, especially when patients are on the ward long-term.

Yet, I wonder if I had been forced to spend a year doing paid work as a HCA, would I be in this position now?

Maybe I would have become dependent on that money and felt like I couldn’t afford to give it up. Maybe I would have felt an extra year towards what I wanted to do was too long to wait. What about those students fresh out of college having to take a gap year and losing their confidence to get back into education?

But on the other hand, maybe we all would have learnt something that only work experience can provide.

I can only comment on my own experience. I have found my volunteer placement insightful and it has really helped prepare me for what to expect. I genuinely can’t wait to start because it has allowed me to observe the nurses I so badly want to emulate.

Is a mandatory HCA year the answer? What do you think?


Jade Day is going to be studying adult nursing at Anglia Ruskin University from March 2014


Readers' comments (7)

  • Follow my twitter @jadeday10 or my blog

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  • I am looking to find volunteer work or work experience in a hospital. I haven't applied for any course yet, so I might expect to enter my pg degree next year. I would definitely love to get a healthcare assistant job before going onto the course as I only have retail experience and studied business management. But doesn't seem like it will happen yet. Also Iv been looking for apprenticeships but that's not looking good either. But I definitely feel experience would help me be more confident before taking the course.

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  • I'm starting my degree in September and completed a 2 year nursing cadet course which included 2 days in NHS placements a week. It has given me valuable experience and insight into working within the NHS and I feel well prepared for the next step now. Still very nervous though would not like to be going into this direct from college with no experience of working in a care setting.

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  • I am also starting my Adult Nursing in March, and like you I CANT WAIT! I have two years experience in home care and a years experience working as a health care assistant in a care home. Before I started working in care I would never have thought of becoming a nurse, how would I know if I had never experienced a job in the health sector. I think its definitely beneficial to have the experience as a health care assistant as it has made it clear to me what I would like to do as a career. It also gives me the confidence that it is something I am good at and therefore don't feel so daunted by the idea of adult nursing at university!

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  • I am starting in this year's March cohort, and am very excited. I have some experience of working in a care home, but none on an actual ward, but not for lack of trying! I've attempted to volunteer with various organisations as well as directly through the hospital, and HCA jobs are few and far between, and usually seem to be internal only.

    I'm unsure if the mandatory year would be a good thing. I know some HCA who are happy in their roles, and don't want to be nurses. Would we deny those? Staff turnover would be incredibly high, possibly leading to even more bad feeling between some employees and students. On the other hand, the year of experience would be very valuable. A lot of thought needs to go into this I think.

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  • I have been HCA for years before doing my training. As part of the uni criteria it states must have relevant experience. However 80% of my class dont have any HCA/volunteer/healthcare experience at all.
    I think you should have relavant experince as you dont know what you are getting your self into thus people drop out by which a place could have been given to those who have experience and know the deal. Without experience the other students found it extremly harder to learn the basics and did wish they had waited.
    people have different views of what nursing is and once try it, it may be perfect for you or a disaster.
    I do feel though HCA are under appreciated and nurses must remeber this as they are the ones who spend the most time in contact with patient.,

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  • A year is a bit much, but no one should be looking to do a nursing degree without first seeking some real experience of what it's like, you can't know how you'll cope with the stress and emotional labour without being tested, thinking otherwise is massively arrogant. It's not so much about the lack of experience as the thought process that goes into choosing such a demanding profession and just assuming it's going to be fine. I've been told UEA do a short placement a couple of weeks into the start of the course and they lose some of the cohort right then, which is a really strange time to find out you're not cut out for it.

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