Nursing School in 2019 – The Right Time to Apply?

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Written By Dr Shane McKeown

The world of nursing and nursing training in the UK has been changing fairly rapidly over the past few years. Since the application deadline of 2017 there has been a sharp decline in the number of nursing school applicants. After the removal of bursaries there was a 23% drop in applicants in just one year. The government held fast with their decision and in 2018 there was a further drop in applications.

But what does this all mean for hopeful future nurses in 2019?

Well nurses and midwives still have to pay their £9000 in student fees. It also means that you must be sure that this is the career for you. Nursing in any country is always both a heady mixture of hard work and great reward from the care you are able to give. These recent drops in applicant numbers however do mean your heart must be firmly set if you are to succeed out there in the hectic clinical environment.

There are over 34,000 nursing and midwifery jobs in the UK and vacancies all over the country. There are strains on many departments and any future nurse will be expected to work with great speed and efficiency just as current staff are. What nursing leaders are keen to avoid is even further strain on nurses, as tired and understaffed workers lead to disasters like the Midstaffs scandal. It is not all bad news and worry for the future however. Although policymakers are slow to respond to staffing issues, especially when it comes to the NHS, there is the beginning of recognition and change.

Removing the bursary for nurses has meant the government has promised they can afford to create around 10,000 additional training places. The newspapers may also stress the loss of applicant numbers with the new financial strain but the fact is, in 3 years time the number of newly qualified nurses is unlikely to drop. Why? Well despite the drop the number of applicants being accepted by universities is actually staying roughly the same.

Since 2010/11 the number of accepted applications has remained between 24 to 27,000 per year. While universities can keep the needed levels of new nurses at least stable, we are still waiting to see the long term effect this will have on nurse training and the actual experience of working in the future. As reduced applications have had minimal impact so far, waving a magic wand and producing 10-20% more staff per year won’t suddenly solve issues either. It would not be of immediate benefit as some think because space needs to be made all the way down the career path.

Both universities and hospitals are looking for ways to continue to provide good teaching for students alongside safe oversight for newly qualified staff in the clinical environment. They feel confident current measures will hold when student numbers do finally increase. Despite this optimistic outlook, current strains on NHS staffing and pay remain a concern across the differing careers and disciplines. While there is much progress to be made, eager nursing applicants can take some solace in the 3 year pay rise deal agreed in June of 2018.

Lead negotiator and UNISON head of health Sara Gorton said the agreement “won’t solve all the NHS’s problems overnight, but it will go a long way towards easing the financial strain suffered by health staff and their families over many years. Most importantly, the extra funding means the pay rise won’t be at the expense of services or patient care.”




Are you thinking of applying to nursing or already started your journey towards qualification? Don’t miss out on our ultimate guide to stethoscopes for students and professionals alike, updated for 2019.


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