The University of the West of England – UWE, Bristol – is the largest provider of nursing and midwifery education in the UK and it’s right here on our doorstep!

The Nursing and Midwifery department is based at two locations; one in Gloucester city centre and the other at the Glenside Campus, near Bristol, where Rakhee Rankin is Associate Head of Nursing and Midwifery. We asked Mrs Rankin about the profession, the undergraduate courses and the skills which help make a great nurse. Here’s what she told us …

There’s more than one type of nursing

There are four different types of nursing: Mental Health Nursing, Learning Disability Nursing, Children’s Nursing and Adult Nursing.

When applying, it is good practice to frame your personal statement to show exactly which type of nursing you want to do. And so if you apply for two or more types of nursing at UWE Bristol, you are not going to get very far with your application.

Understand the nature of the different types of nursing

Children’s Nursing can often be about end-of-life care and about working with parents and grandparents; Adult Nursing is very technical and involves working with people caring for their physical needs; Mental Health Nursing requires a lot of understanding of the relevant law and considerable listening skills; and Learning Disabilities Nursing requires very special communication skills.

And all nursing requires a caring and compassionate nature as well as someone who can listen and empathise with all our patients.

Why choose nursing?

People choose nursing for many reasons: to make a difference to the lives of others, to work with people and perhaps because there are great employment opportunities ahead.

What sort of people do we look for?

To be a great nurse, we’d suggest that you also need to have a positive attitude, be a good team-player, open-minded and keen to learn. You’ll ideally need to be resilient, caring, friendly and approachable, warm compassionate and open – and we’ll ask you to give us an example to prove that you have the skills that you claim to have.

Good communication skills are vital to the role

As a student nurse you learn to think broadly: one minute you could be talking to someone with dementia and then to their carer who could be their wife or their husband of 50 years. The next minute, you might be talking to a young person or child – or to their parents and grandparents.

Being able to communicate with kindness, sensitivity and compassion are also integral to the profession. And UWE Bristol will incorporate patient and carer feedback testimonials as part of your grades.

What do you learn about as a student nurse?

At UWE Bristol, the degree courses include a wide variety of modules including Nutrition and Fluid Balance, Pharmacology and Medicines Management, Tissue Viability, Care at the End of Life, Pain Management, Infection Control, Long Term Conditions, Public Health, Person Centred Care as well as specialist topics appropriate to the type of nursing.

A typical day can involve Clinical Skills – standard precautions, infection control and wound care with student-led presentations – followed by pharmacological interventions and placements – see below.

How do you learn?

You learn in lots of different ways including placements away from the classroom. These can include experience of hospital care in community hospitals, primary care including GP services, hospice care (if appropriate), working in a registered care home, being out in the community with the district nurses, and working with families – such as on a one-to-one basis for those with learning difficulties. It does depend on the specialism, but there is variety embedded throughout.

At UWE Bristol, there are also international opportunities

In your second year, you can apply to spend two weeks out in Croatia. You could elect to undertake a four-week international placement attached to a charity such as War Child. Or you can apply for an overseas ERASMUS placement lasting up to 12 weeks.

Nursing is a demanding course

Expect to work long days – even when out in the community – with 12-14 hour shifts throughout a 37½ hour week including nights and weekends. The early shift can be 7am – 3.30pm, the late shift 2pm – 9.30pm and the night shift 8pm – 8am.

Students do this after just three months and it is the same for Paramedic Science; with Occupational Therapy looking into this for their students too. Overall, nursing is a demanding course where full attendance is expected and not necessarily on set days … but we do have holidays!!

What sort of things can you do to strengthen your application?

As with any application, try to include relevant experiences and any transferable skills that result. This should involve working with people and could specifically be that you regularly look after your younger siblings, or have baby-sitting experience. It could be that you have a grandparent with dementia or that you have cared for someone during an extensive period of illness.

We also look to see that you can clearly demonstrate a desire to be a nurse and that you understand what you are applying for. Research this carefully: it will demonstrate your understanding, but also help you to be sure which of the nursing disciplines you want to apply for.

One way to do this is by attending an open day to tour the facilities, and meet staff and current students. The next open day is on 17th June:

Also take a look at the NHS Values which underpin everything about the NHS at all levels. They will help you to further understand what you are applying for and how you fit in and are online here:

What happens as part of the application process?

Many university courses do not interview applicants, but nursing is different – the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) requires face to face contact with an applicant before a place to study nursing is offered so this may be worth bearing in mind.

There are also numeracy and literacy tests, group activities – collaborating with service users, carers and practice – and an opportunity to meet our current students.

Thank you to Mrs Rankin and to UWE Bristol, Faculty of Health and Applied Sciences. It’s Your Future – Let’s Get It Started.

Check out for open days, talks, work experience, courses and apprenticeship vacancies! There are also events such as the UWE, Bristol open day on 17th June: And there’s a truly inspirational short video on the Adult Nursing course at UWE: – worth a look.

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