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‘To be interviewing student nurse candidates is a great honour’

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Brian Belle-Fortune on recruiting student nurses

I missed a funeral last week. We called her Matron and she was our school nurse.

I apologised for my absence, then paused to think that there had been something poetic in missing the event because I was interviewing prospective students aspiring to be the next generation of nurses.

As part of my role as a student practice facilitator, I’m asked to interview would-be students alongside a university lecturer. I can still remember the interview that welcomed me into nursing, and it’s a pleasure to be involved in the process today, albeit from a different perspective.

For those of you not involved in recruiting nurses, here’s the deal. Applicants usually need to have A-levels, a minimum number of GCSEs or to have completed an access to nursing course.

Once they’ve met the university’s entrance criteria, candidates are called for an interview. On the big day, a few arrive too late or don’t arrive at all. Some flunk the English and/or maths tests. These people are not interviewed but are advised to seek help in order to improve those basic skills.

The remainder are asked: ‘Why do you want to be a nurse?’ It’s surprising how many people haven’t thought it through, assumed it might be like Casualty or had parents who had pushed them into applying.

Through the filter system of questions, you’ll find semi-precious stones, fool’s gold and the occasional gem.

There’ll be students who are destined to drop out, and some will be kicked off the course for reasons such as absenteeism, unprofessional behaviour, other problems or failure to meet academic goals.

On the positive side, you’ll recruit the nurse who will be the loyal plodder, adept staff nurse or shining ward manager.

We interviewed an excellent candidate the other day. He gave up a career in the media because he felt it wasn’t what he wanted to do with his life. Exuding calm confidence, he scored a perfect 10 with the interview panel.

There I sit, as the candidates nervously tell their life stories. As they navigate through the questions, you’re trying to figure out if they would make a good nurse.
And as the final assessment, I can ask Matron: ‘Are they, could they be one of us?’

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