You don’t need A-levels to nurse

#hellomynameisBenji and I’m a first year children’s nursing student at Surrey. I thought I would write to encourage prospective students who are thinking of applying to do nursing at Surrey, and to give my rather unconventional testimony of my journey through the process, and some stuff about what its like for me now that I’ve started my course. 

Long story short, when I was 16 I was diagnosed with Osteosarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer. This meant I needed a year of chemotherapy treatment and surgery to replace my knee bone with a titanium prosthetic. I think in total I’ve spent nearly 200 nights in hospital. Naturally during this time, the nurses who were part of my care became like an extended family, it was this that first got me interested in doing nursing as a career. I saw how they treated everyone with the upmost compassion and professionalism, and it was obvious how much they loved their jobs.

After my treatment had finished, the road to uni was pretty rocky. Because of my chemo I had only two A levels to my name, whilst I was very proud of this it was not enough to meet the entry requirements of the course. So I came to an open day at surrey and met the wonderfully kind tutors who lead the child nursing course. They were very supportive and understanding of my situation and encouraged me that A levels were not the only way onto the course. A lot of people retrain as nurses and come to the profession as a career change and at 19 I was in a similar scenario where qualifications might be different/not having the right grades. 

I was encouraged to do an access course, the uni actually love applicants who do these as it prepares you for many aspects of uni life, not just with a knowledge of healthcare but also in skills such as academic writing and research evaluation. There are colleges everywhere that do access courses running it in a mixture of ways. You can do them online, and this works really well for some who have busy schedules as you can complete work at your convenience. I preferred to go down the college method as that’s how I find I learn better being in a class with others. I had a look at some college websites, there were some in the evenings across most weekdays, and some in regular daytime hours. I settled on one that ran two full days a week at the college that was closest to me. My access course was one specially designed for healthcare applicants, my classmates were wanabee midwives, nurses, ODP’s physios and more. We looked at many things, mainly anatomy and physiology but also how psychology and sociology influence health. It was awesome to be learning alongside people who were in a similar position to myself. Most of us were retraining/ having a career change and were looking to boost our grades to get into uni. This gave us a common motivation and everyone was really supportive, asking each other how open days had gone, finding help with assignments etc.  

And there we had it, a year later I had finished my access course with the grades I needed. In the summer I had my offer from Surrey. This relieved all my previous anxieties about getting into uni, and now that I am here I am loving it. Each week we have been learning new clinical skills and you get more and more confident as time goes on.  I would highly advise if you have any questions, particularly if you find yourself in a similar situation to myself, as not everyone has A-levels, we all learn in different ways. Definitely get in touch with the wonderful staff at the uni, I’m where I am today because of them.

Author: Benji Berry, Year 1 Student

Surrey is now offering a foundation year in nursing, visit the website here to find out more:

Disclaimer: This blog contains personal opinions of students only and does not necessarily represent the views of the Children’s Nursing team, School of Health Sciences or the University of Surrey.

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