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What to expect from a course in nursing

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Starting your nursing course doesn’t have to be a step into the unknown

Becoming a nurse is a lot of work but the training available gives you hands-on experience to make you as prepared as possible to start your career.

Nurse training is provided by universities. Students typically spend half of their time in university studying the academic side of nursing and half of their time in placements learning practical aspects of nursing. This makes a nursing degree unique to other university-based degree courses as so much of your time is spent experiencing the job first-hand.

Practical placements

Student nurses tend to find going on placement the most exciting part of their course – after all this where you get to see what the job is really like.

You will be assigned placements in a variety of settings throughout your course. The aim of these is to give you insight in to all different types of nursing.  On qualifying, you should then have some idea which area of nursing you want to work in.

It’s important to keep in mind that you will learn something from all your placements and to always be open-minded.


Placements can be anywhere from 5 to 10 weeks or longer. Whilst on placement you will be required to engage in nursing duties as well as to observe procedures in order to build your skills and knowledge. You will be expected to act in a professional manner and to engage with the rest of the team to get the most out of your time with them.

On each placement, students are assigned a “nurse mentor” who will be responsible for making sure you achieve all your learning outcomes. This person will be a qualified nurse who has completed a mentorship course. They will also be the person who assesses you on placement. You will spend one-on-one time with your mentor at regularly intervals and your shifts should be the same as theirs where possible.

Academic work

At various points during your course you will be assigned essays to complete. Learning how to write an essay is a skill that takes time and practice to learn. Your tutors will offer you support and guidance and you can also look at our student study section for help and advice.

It is important to plan your time when you are doing your course. You will have plenty of work to do for university as well as your placements and need to find time to do things you enjoy.


Nurses are highly trained professionals so there is a lot of information you will be taught on your course.

The assessment of this knowledge varies between courses. All courses require you to complete a “practice placement document” whilst on placement. This comprises of a set of learning outcomes that you must achieve whilst there, you and your mentor will sign each as you achieve them. You mentor will then sign your paperwork at the end of the placement to show that you have passed the placement.

In order to assess what you have learnt in university, you will also be required to complete essays, exams and presentations. Different universities offer courses with varying amounts of each. You will also need to complete smaller assignments for seminars and read around the subjects you are studying in your own time.

You will get out of your course what you are prepared to put in to it. It will be hard work at times but will fly by so take advantage of every opportunity. You will be graduating before you know it.

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Readers' comments (1)

  • great help :D
    i already had an insight to how the next free years are going to be but to know that there is a lot of support really does make my nerves a little more settled.

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