Advice and development

Welcome to nursing – our dynamic, diverse and hugely rewarding profession

You’ve chosen a career full of opportunity, and there’s a whole community to support you too
Three nursing students look happy to be on clinical placement together

You’ve chosen a career full of opportunity, and there’s a whole community to support you too

Nursing students have robust representation in the profession. Picture: iStock

Congratulations on your decision to pursue a career in nursing, and welcome to one of the most diverse professions in the world. This journey will not be easy, but it will be worthwhile.

In starting your degree, you have committed to joining a community of more than 300,000 nurses and midwives UK-wide. Every one of us has had to endure the challenges of training to become a registered professional and if we can do it, so can you. It is important to know that you have our support.

Although there are 40,000 nurse vacancies across England alone, this does not mean that anyone can simply become a nurse. It takes an incredible amount of knowledge and skill to work with people from a variety of different backgrounds, ethnicities, cultures and walks of life.

A complex combination of skills

Nursing is often described as a vocation. While this may be true for some, I have never felt like I was born to be a nurse. I believe that emotional intelligence and an understanding of the evidence base that underpins practice are what make a great nurse, along with knowledge and experience, leadership abilities and, most importantly, courage and skills in advocacy.

A common misconception about nursing is that it is all about ‘care’ and caring for those who are unwell. Nurses are some of the most dynamically skilled professionals and are so much more than care providers.

‘Nursing students are increasingly becoming a strong voice for our profession’

Nurses are researchers, quality improvers, leaders, policy makers, clinical specialists, political influencers, environmental workers, digital transformation champions, health promoters and innovators.

Nursing is about leadership, influencing and making policy and innovative practice.
Picture: iStock

There is no doubt the profession is facing difficulties; with short staffing and lack of education funding, alongside an ageing population with complex healthcare needs, we are facing challenges that require a lot of focus and support.

But nurses are stronger than ever, advocating for their patients and colleagues and demonstrating outstanding leadership. Nursing students are a huge part of the solution to the problems we face and are increasingly becoming a strong voice for our profession.

It’s a great time to be training as a nurse

With the launch of the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) standards for pre-registration nurse education, it is an exciting time to train as a nurse. What were once considered advanced skills, such as venepuncture and cannulation, are now fundamental skills for new nursing students, who will have a wider skill set on qualifying.

Nursing students are the future of our profession. Recognition of this among healthcare leaders means students are now expected to manage more complex healthcare packages and have an increased contribution to public health.

Nursing students are leaders from the moment they start their training, so it is essential they are nurtured and supported to grow as the future healthcare leaders of tomorrow.

‘Remember to take care of yourself, but don’t forget to have fun – you are a student after all’

I have a strong commitment to building the nursing leadership of the future and encouraging healthcare staff of all levels to take on more leadership roles and advocate for our profession, our patients and our future workforce. 

Having been qualified as an adult nurse for just over 18 months, one of the most important things I have learned is never to take my position as a professional lightly. We are privileged to provide care to people when they are at their most vulnerable, one of the many reasons why a career in nursing is so rewarding.

You will experience mixed emotions – this is normal

During your time as a student, you will experience many emotions and you will feel tired sometimes. Studying and working long hours on placement, as well as working to earn money in your spare time when possible, can take its toll.

Combining study with clinical placements and other commitments is tough – so don't
forget to enjoy yourself. Picture: Neil O’Connor

It is extremely important to remember to take care of yourself, exercising regularly and eating well, but also to enjoy your time off with friends and family. Don’t forget to have fun – you are a student after all.

You will also face a rollercoaster of emotions, perhaps including imposter syndrome, where you will doubt your abilities. You may even, at some point, question your decision to become a nurse. Recognising that this is normal is vital; we have all been there, and it is important during these times to talk openly and honestly with your peers, university tutors and placement mentors.

We are all here to make sure everyone feels supported, and you will never be alone. You will likely see and feel things other people never get to experience, such as holding the hand of someone as they take their last breath, or celebrating with a patient who has just received good news about their health.

But you will mostly be filled with pride and a sense of honour – nothing can quite describe the feeling of being there for someone in their time of need.

You are about to start the journey of a lifetime. Nursing is a fulfilling career that gives you a real sense of purpose, and it is certainly never dull. So embrace the downs as well as enjoying the ups of your nursing career – this is what will make you a better nurse.

Charlotte Jakab-Hall is a staff nurse and chief nurse junior fellow at Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust