According to UCAS data, this year has seen a 22% rise in student nurses compared with last year*. This increase might seem surprising given the challenging year that healthcare workers have had, so we wanted to find out first-hand what drives people towards this career path.
We caught up with mother and daughter, Tracy Alexander and Sarah Alexander-Redmond, who decided to take up the profession of nursing and joined LJMU together this year to begin their studies.
Why did you want to get into nursing?
Tracy – Basically, a colleague in work who was a consultant said to me a year ago “have you ever thought of becoming a nurse” and I think it replanted the seed. I had, as a teenager, wanted to work in health care but the secondary school I attended would not allow me to take the necessary options to pursue it. I did worry that I would now be too mature to start on this new venture but LJMU have been wonderful in supporting me and encouraging me to join the course.
Also, the introduction of the bursary has allowed to leave a full-time job and pursue this full-time degree. Without it, I would not have been able to afford to make this decision. It was through my daughter applying herself and, listening to her passion, reignited mine. She explained the finances to me and I thought yes, I can do this.
Sarah – When I was going through school I really wanted to go into medicine because I used to find everything around it really interesting. I did well in my GCSEs but didn’t really enjoy sixth form (apart from getting to see my friends) enough to properly knuckle down like you need to for healthcare degrees so I just concentrated on geography which I really enjoyed at the time. I was always interested in the health aspects of it and I did my dissertation around health. When I graduated, one of my coursemates went into paramedicine and it kind of gave me a nudge to pursue the medical/nursing career I really wanted.
Sarah you’ve chosen to pursue adult nursing and Tracy, child nursing. Can you tell us why you chose these areas in particular?
Sarah – I was drawn to adult nursing specifically because I really like working with and helping people. I knew I didn’t really have the experience for paediatrics, and I wasn’t too interested in that field to be honest. My mum was pretty much built for child nursing! I just think adult nursing is so broad and there are so many options – there is even potential for working in policy in the future to link in with my health geography knowledge. Nursing is so much more than A&P, it’s also knowing about inequalities, holistic care, etc.
Tracy – I was drawn to child nursing due to my passion for, and previous work experience in supporting children and their families. I’m hoping that the experiences I have gained will be transferrable, and basically want to make a difference. I have a particular interest in child and adolescent mental health so I’m hoping this may be an area I can specialise in for my final year. Sarah mentioned that she thinks I am built for child nursing, I am very flattered by this. I believe Sarah is built for adult nursing. She has a lovely, mature, compassionate, caring way about her and she is reflective and can strike a conversation up with anyone.
Did one of you need some convincing?
Tracy – Mmm, yes, I was so proud of Sarah making this decision and wanted to give her all the support I could. I did need a little convincing in my own head as I was worried about finances and my age and I didn’t want to feel I was invading on Sarah’s university experience. I also have not done biology for over 30 years, so this may prove a challenge.
Sarah – I actually applied first and really wanted to do it. My mum was really supportive of the decision. I was a bit sceptical as to whether I would get onto the course with no real previous care experience and felt nervous about going back to another three years of uni but I knew I’d enjoy it. My mum helped with my personal statement and I just went for it. My mum really wanted to apply. She didn’t need loads of convincing, but it was a bigger decision for her to make so I just tried to be supportive as I knew she’d be brill in the role.
What are you enjoying most about your programme so far?
Tracy – Just about everything; finally working towards my dream. New experiences and a new chapter. Meeting new people. The online simulation place that we are currently doing is a fabulous way of learning new skills whilst keeping us safe.
Sarah – I am enjoying finally studying something I really enjoy! I really enjoyed my first uni experience socially, but I really struggled to stay motivated academically near the end because I kind of lost interest after three solid years of the same subject. With nursing, everything is different and so interesting, so I don’t see that happening this time!
Is having your mother/daughter along with you on this journey changed your uni experience?
Sarah – It’s kind of nice living with someone else on the course, I think. We don’t have to worry about missing something (especially with online learning) because there are two sets of eyes on everything! For me, it hasn’t changed too much because this time around I am really focusing on the course as a career prospect for myself. It’s really nice to share something so special with your mum – going to uni with a parent has got to be one of those pinch-yourself moments. My friends’ reactions are all positive as well which is really nice!
Tracy – Like Sarah mentions it’s good having someone else in the house on the course as we have been able to support each other, especially as the course is online. It’s a new way of working and if one of us misses something the other picks it up. Plus, it’s good to have two perspectives. I think I have an added bonus as Sarah is used to the more up to date IT literacy so she has supported me a little with this. My friends are absolutely made up for me – they have smiled when mentioning I’m on the course with my Sarah and think it’s fantastic.
Is there healthy competition between you?
Sarah – Definitely. Me and mum did the couch to 5k at the beginning of lockdown and the only thing that got us through it was not wanting to be the first one to stop running! We aren’t angry in competition though, it’s more healthy and supportive. It’s nice to be able to work together, with revision and stuff. We’ve been lucky really because this could be quite an isolating time for first-year students but we obviously live together.
Tracy – Goodness yes…it will not be around marks, it is around supportive competition. As Sarah mentions the 0 to 5k, god, I was knackered at the beginning. I had always been a walker but had never ran and neither of us were going to be the first to stop running. I felt like Forrest Gump! It’s good to be able to work together although for some things like biosciences – it takes me a little longer to pick things up and Sarah is very patient.
What sort of challenges will COVID-19 bring to your current studies and future roles in nursing? How do you think you’ll rise to these challenges?
Sarah – One of the things I kind of worry about is physical experience/training which has obviously been difficult with lockdown and social distancing rules. The uni has been great getting us in for key training and vaccines, but there’s only so much that can be done at the moment so I worry about going into a placement for the first time with less experience than what would normally be expected. However, we will have our theory to lean on, as well as the sessions uni have managed to arrange for us.
It is also a bit nerve wracking going into placements when the virus is as bad as it is at the moment but it feels nice to be able to actually play a part in it all and make a difference by helping. I think the only way to rise to these challenges now is to stay positive and work together!
Tracy – I guess that, like Sarah, I have been wondering how this will affect placements with the current rise in cases and if we have to isolate how this will affect our hours and will we know enough to go onto placements. Like Sarah mentions, I am also a little nervous about going onto placements whilst this virus is still so virulent too but I guess it is about taking one step at a time and being there to support each other.
If Tracy and Sarah have inspired you to take on the challenge of nursing, why not take a look at what nursing courses are on offer at LJMU?
Source: Nursing Times.