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How to tackle your nursing course as an older student

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At 30 years old, with an 8 month old son, I was worried how I would fit in when I started my access nursing course.

I needn’t have been. In fact, I was just about average really.

There were younger girls there of course, but most of us were parents who were returning to study after years away. Again, a year later at university, I tucked neatly into the average group. Increasingly often, people are retraining after having families and deciding to change their career paths.

I’ve heard that older students make the best students. I don’t know if that’s universally true. We’re determined to learn and we know what’s important to us and we understand how to prioritise and economise. But we do come with responsibilities too; a family, a house to run or maybe a job to fit study around. It sounds daunting, but there are ways to make the transition to student nurse easier.

Money is a worry for any student but even more so when they have a family to care for. It’s likely that your grant and/or bursary is all arranged if you’re about to start your course, but you’re probably already wondering how far you’ll be able to stretch it. Speak to your institution about other funding that is available. Different universities have different arrangements but there may be funds to help with the costs of childcare, for example.

If your uni can’t help, ask for details of other agencies that can. Citizens Advice and the Department of Work and Pensions should also be able to provide you with advice on benefits or grants you may be entitled to and speak to your local authority about your Council Tax exemption or discount. Even if your institution do this automatically, call them anyway to make sure it’s sorted.

Academically, your university should provide you with the support you need. You’ll often find lecture slides to print off through an online learning site. It’s important to remember that these aren’t a substitute for attending lectures! They’re a useful aid, but it’s not always easy to get your head around the information without the lecturer putting it into context. Make notes, ensuring that you’ll be able to understand them later, but try not to get overloaded with statistics. These tend to be referenced so you will be able to look them up after the lecture. Concentrate more on the other information provided.

If you find yourself struggling, ask for help! If you’re baffled by computers or you have a specific learning need, speak to someone. Don’t be tempted to battle on in silence. Remember: your university have accepted you out of probably thousands of applicants. They picked you for a reason and they don’t want you to fail any more than you do.

As for fitting in, you are studying for your benefit; you want to lear. Meeting new people is a bonus, but no one wants to be left out! I can all but promise that you will find friendships with people your own age as well as people who aren’t. I’ve met people from various backgrounds on my course, from school leavers to grandparents, former hairdressers, admin assistants, carers and bankers. Everyone on that first day is in the same boat, there with the same aim. Enjoy the experience.

Lyn-Marie is a second year adult nurse student studying at Glasgow Caledonian University. You can also find here on twitter @STNLynMarie

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