A new study has revealed that students across the country have been encouraged to pursue nursing because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
According to a study by UCAS, the pandemic inspired more than two-thirds (69%) of 2021 nursing applicants to apply, with around one in ten stating that it was the most important factor. The research also revealed that younger applicants find value in nursing, with numbers of 18 year-olds applying in 2021 rising upwards of 38% relative to 2019.
This increase is not unique to nursing, and the report reveals that the pandemic has led to an ‘unprecedented demand for post-secondary education and training.’ While this is predominantly positive, previous research has shown that increased competition can lead to more disadvantaged students ‘missing out’ as they are ‘much more likely’ to be at the lower end of the attainment spectrum.
The future of the profession
Dr Ruth May, the Chief Nursing Officer for England, and Professor Mark Radford CBE, the Chief Nurse of Health Education England and Deputy Chief Nursing Officer for England, wrote in the foreword that ‘capturing the views of those starting out in their nursing career is crucial to this because they are the future of this profession.’
They also explained that the report shows ‘that the focus on the contribution of nurses and nursing throughout the pandemic has played a part in increasing the number of people considering a degree in nursing.’
The study describes men as ‘an untapped source of nurses,’ as women are more than nine times more likely to choose and be placed onto nursing courses. This gap rises to 57 times for children’s nursing.
Around one in four of 2021 nursing applicants state that current healthcare personnel were the most influential in their decision to apply to nursing, the study revealed, showing that the image of nurses throughout the pandemic has been an overwhelmingly positive and inspirational one.
UCAS chief executive Clare Marchant said that the rise in nursing applicants is ‘heartening to see’
She said: ‘In the first lockdown we saw a massive increase in individuals wanting to apply for nursing. It was repeated again in 2021 and we forecast it will be the same in 2022. The journey you go on with patients, caring for the wellbeing of the nation and contributing to society have really motivated people.’
Third year English Literature student Saskia Hirst told Freshered that, prior to the pandemic, nursing and medicine was quite prominent to her as she had already worked looking after disabled children.
‘I also lived with two nurses in first and second year, who fairly frequently mentioned Graduate Entry Nursing. But, even though I knew of this, I felt it was quite a rogue career path and very far off what I imagined myself doing considering I studied (and still study) English Literature.’
Hirst explained that ‘going into nursing was barely a thought’ and was not a job path that she ‘truly entertained.’ However, the pandemic was ‘definitely a turning point’ and ‘what seemed like a far off career became a reality’ as she took on multiple healthcare roles in different settings.
‘Most of all I think taking six months away from my degree in the first lockdown and working in a nursing home influenced me to re-evaluate what I wanted to do in life and fulfilled me. Talking with patients, seeing their medical conditions, helping them through it and the experience of love and loss I’ve seen has inspired me to become a nurse through the pandemic and beyond,’ she said.
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