Becoming a Childrens Nurse

Adjusting to life as a staff nurse….


Hello everyone!

It’s been a while and I hope you’re doing well.

Where have I been for the last 6 months? Grab a cup of tea and I’ll fill you in.

So since I last posted in June, a lot has changed in my life. In September, it was confirmed I had achieved a first class degree in Child Nursing BSc (Hons) and I can honestly say, it was one of the proudest moments of my life. All the hard work, stress and countless moments of self doubt over the last three years made it all worth it!

In September, I also received my (very long awaited) NMC pin number which allows me to practice as a registered children’s nurse in the UK and has allowed me to start my dream job at Great Ormond Street Hospital. I’m currently working in Neurosciences and I can honestly say, I love it. But it’s not been completely plain sailing (which I’ll get on to in a minute…). But first, if you look at the photo at the bottom of the page – I finally got my blues! This was taken after I had run (literally, soooooo excited) home after a full day of study in my induction period, but I could not wait for the moment where I could finally put on that blue staff nurse uniform. As soon as I put it on, I rang my mum and felt on top of the world. I was so proud. I am so proud to wear this uniform and be a children’s nurse. Honestly, I am.

However, I’m not going to lie, being a nurse is hard. When I was a student on my final placement, about two weeks before I got signed off, I thought “yes, I’ve got this. I can do this” which was the mentality I went to work with on my first night shift as a qualified staff nurse. When I was sat in the staff room, waiting for handover I was still thinking “yes, I’ve got this. I can do this”. But when I walked out onto the ward and was allocated patients of my own, it suddenly dawned on me that those patients were now solely my responsibility…. no mentor to fall back on. WOW. How was I going to do this?

The first month was difficult. It took me a while to accept that I was actually a registered nurse and I was capable and competent. I felt very nervous and like I didn’t know half as much as I should know. I felt I wasn’t ready or good enough to take care of these very unwell, complex patients on my own. I felt like there wasn’t enough hours in the shift to do all the jobs I needed to do in order to provide the best care I could for my patients. But slowly, I realised I can do this. I have learnt not to be so hard on myself and as long as I do my best and ensure my patients are safe, that’s all that matters. As a lot of the nurses on my ward say “It’s 24 hour care and if you need to pass a job onto the next nurse… that’s fine” which I do still struggle with, I have to admit! But the great thing about nursing is, you all work as one team and have the patients best interests at heart 🙂

However, I was not alone. I’m very lucky I’ve started on the ward with an incredible set of newly qualified nurses and we’ve become like a little family. It is so comforting to know there are other people who are feeling how you are and you can go to each other for support. In saying that, I am so lucky to be part of an incredible team of nurses on the ward I work on who are so supportive and at the end of the day, everyone has to start somewhere and every nurse has been newly qualified at some point. So my biggest piece of advice is whether you’re a first year, second year, third year student nurse, newly qualified yourself or haven’t started your training yet – don’t ever be afraid to ask silly questions, don’t ever be afraid to ask for help and don’t ever be afraid to say “I don’t know” because the great thing about nursing is, you’re always learning and developing.

Anyway! Onto the more positive end of my job. I’m learning new skills every day. I was signed off as competent to administer oral medications two weeks after starting, signed off as IV (Intravenous) medication competent after two months and I have just been signed off as tracheostomy, blood sampling and central line competent. But don’t let that fool ya, I still ask a million questions every day and I’m still working on my confidence as a registered nurse. I have been able to work with students and try to be the role model I would have wanted to work with as a student. I have been able to expand my knowledge of neurology, neurosurgical and craniofacial conditions and learnt how to tailor my nursing care to meet the needs of these patients. However, on occasion, I have moved wards for a few shifts to new specialities which boosted my confidence as it showed despite working in Neurosciences, I can apply my nursing knowledge to different specialities and provide excellent patient care. I have been given so many amazing opportunities to learn and develop and I am very excited for that to continue.

I have been privileged to work and care for some amazing children and their families and believe me – many of them have taught me a lot more about nursing than many books have over the last 3 years! It never fails to amaze me the power of children’s resilience and the pride it gives me caring for them in their most vulnerable moments.

Don’t get me wrong, I still have bad days where shifts are hectic and I have moments of self doubt. At the end of the day, I still have a mountain to climb and so much experience to gain. But thing’s are getting better and I’m excited at the nurse I am developing into.

I suppose my biggest piece of advice is, no matter how hard things get or if you find that self doubt creeping in – take a step back, breathe and think to yourself “I can do this, I’m going to make an incredible nurse” because you will. And when that patient or family member appreciates the work you do and tells you thank you for the excellent way you’ve looked after me, it makes it all worth it.

In my next blog post, I’ll have officially graduated from City, University of London 🙂 But don’t worry, I’ll still be around to fill you in on life as a registered children’s nurse…. Happy nursing.


Alex 🙂





Dare to go out of your comfort zone…


Hello everyone!

I hope everyone is enjoying this gorgeous (but very hot!!!) weather we’ve been experiencing this week!

Before I begin this months blog post, I have some very exciting news… I got a FIRST in my dissertation!!! Happiness does not even begin to cover how I felt when I got my results. I feel so proud to have finished my degree and to have done well, after working hard for so many months. Now all I have to do is wait for my overall degree classification…

Anyway, the topic I have decided to write about this month is my experience doing my final placement at Great Ormond Street. Before I get into it, I’ll tell you the story of how I got my final placement at GOSH.

So in third year, around November time, placement allocations send you out your “Final Placement” form, where you give four preferences as to where you would like to be allocated to do your final placement. As we don’t go to GOSH normally, I elected to stay within the trust I had trained in and submitted my choices and waited. December rolled around and we were sent an email asking if anyone wanted to go to GOSH and if we did, we had to write a short statement of interest and send it back to allocations. Well… In all honestly, I was torn. I was at home at the time, so I asked every family member what I should do and they all said “Alex, it’s GOSH, why wouldn’t you go?! It will be a fantastic opportunity for you and if you don’t like it, at least you’ve tried it”. So after much thought, I went for it and in all honesty, never thought I would get it. But allocation day rolled around and I opened the email and it said I was going to “Neurology, Neurosurgery and Craniofacial surgery” well…. Scared didn’t even cut it.

Anyway, fast forward to January and the day came to start at GOSH. I remember thoughts like “what if I’m not good enough” “what if they ask me all these questions and I have no idea what to say” or “what if I do something wrong” were all in the back of my mind. After all, GOSH treats thousands of children with rare and complex conditions, most of which I had never previously come across before on placement. However, I needn’t have worried! I had four fantastic mentors. My sign off mentor was brilliant and I honestly could not have asked for anyone better. When I was having moments of self doubt she would always say to me “Alex, you are a competent and more importantly, a safe nurse. If you weren’t asking questions, I’d be worried because you never stop learning and you can’t be expected to know everything” which always put me at ease. As the weeks past, I got more and more confident and I was surrounded by inspirational and supportive staff members from the HCA’s, other staff nurses right up to the ward manager. Even the doctors were fantastic. I was lucky enough to look after some amazing children and families who taught me more than I could ever imagine about different conditions. I was also lucky enough to experience observing major brain surgery, which as gory as it was, allowed me to see how the patient’s condition affected their brain and why they would be like they were when they woke after the surgery.

Don’t get me wrong, there were days when I had wobbles and wanted to go and weep in the toilets (especially after patient’s deciding to be naughty and become very unwell) but I was extremely well supported and felt no question was silly. I was made to feel part of the team and was made to feel valued and appreciated for things that I did, which I feel is so important as a student as we move around so much.

So the moral of the story is, step out of your comfort zone and take EVERY opportunity given to you on this course, because when it pays off, it will be the BEST thing you’ve ever done!!

Alex 🙂 xx

Where have I been?


Hello everyone!

Long time no blog… Sorry about that! 🙂

I thought I’d have a little chitchat and up-date you about what’s been going on with me, but I’m not sure where to start, so much has happened over the last month or so….

First things first and the big thing to mention – I have been signed off by my lovely sign-off mentor as fit to enter the NMC register as a children’s nurse – happy days! Basically, in a nutshell, that means I’m safe enough to look after patients and nurse them under no supervision as I’m viewed as a safe and competent woohoo!!!! I can’t tell you how much a relief it was when she signed my name on the dotted line. I LOVED my final placement and I had a fantastic experience, but it was a long 13 weeks and it did seem at times it would never end (especially during the many, many night shifts I worked!).

I passed my OSCE – This was the dreaded final practical exam of my degree. This involved being examined teaching a junior student a skill – mine was manual pulse and oral temperature. This sounds easy, but I had to perform the skill as well as give in depth rationale behind each step and ensure I kept engaging my student throughout. Until you have done an OSCE, I cannot explain how much of a strange experience it is being examined by a lecturer holding a clipboard, who takes in every word you say and the slightest slip up they could fail you! The first two years we did OSCE’s, I was a nervous wreck but this year, I seemed to have a new found confidence and went in and thought, “Alex you can do this!” and it must have paid off because I was awarded the highest grade I had received over the three years.

And the best bit….. I handed in my dissertation!!!!! I have never been so happy to get rid of a piece of work in my life. For the last 6 months it has been hanging over me – I’ve been worrying about articles, flow charts, themes and critical appraisal but it’s finally over. It was the most amazing feeling submitting it and I feel so proud of what I was able to create. I just hope it’s good enough to pass! I decided to write about “What are parent’s experiences of having a child admitted to Paediatric Intensive Care?” and it was so interesting. I’m hoping if it is good enough, I can hopefully apply to get it published, so my findings can help healthcare professionals see what parent’s views are and how they can make their experiences more positive. But I’ll get back to you on that…

In the last two weeks, September 2014 children’s nurses have spent our final weeks in University. It’s so crazy to think these three years have gone so quickly, I’ve learnt so much and I’ve definitely made some friends for life. On our last day in uniform, group 3 (my lovely, lovely group!) took a final picture of ourselves and all signed our uniforms like when we were back in school – I’ve posted some pictures below! 🙂 I love each and every one of the girls – It’s true what they say… You make friends for life when you study nursing at uni! 🙂

So what am I doing with my life now I’ve finished my degree? (It sounds scary now I say it like that!)

 I have been very lucky to have been offered my dream job at Great Ormond Street in Neurosurgery and Craniofacial surgery as a staff nurse and I will be doing a blog post soon all about my experiences on final placement here! Until I start in September, I will be working at Richard House Children’s Hospice as a play and care worker (I will also be writing a blog post about my experiences here, as I did a placement there as a student and fell in love with it!) and admire the work they do with children and families.

I hope everyone who is currently sitting exams and handing in coursework is getting on well – you will all be amazing!

Alex 🙂 xx

Time to start being a grown up…


Hello everyone 🙂

Now the clocks have gone forward and the days are getting lighter, I hope you are all getting a chance to enjoy the spring weather – when we’re lucky enough to get some sun!

So recently, I have been offered my dream job as a Band 5 Paediatric Staff Nurse at Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) and I thought I would talk on the blog about the interview process, how I prepared and how I found the whole experience.

In year 3, you are expected to do so much – essays, exams, dissertation, placements (including your final) and job applications/interviews. I’m not going to lie it’s been pretty daunting! But when it comes to job applications and interviews, I had no idea where to start.

During our simulated practice module, our lecturers organised a mock interview day for us. So we came dressed up, personal statement in hand and it was treated like a formal interview day. We sat a drug calculations exam and were interviewed by a lecturer, a ward manager and a service user (in our case, it was two parents of a child who had experiences of hospitals). We were asked questions we may get in interview and were scored on our responses. A few days later, we were contacted and told if we got the job or not – it was all very formal! But I have to say, it was really useful and I’m glad they did it as it made my actual interview seem less scary in comparison! 🙂

Nursing interviews can vary from trust to trust. Many places (GOSH, Evelina, Chelsea & Westminster) have hundreds of jobs for newly qualified nurses, so they do “assessment centres” which I will talk about in a second! Other trusts or if you are interviewing for a specific ward, will only interview a small number of applicants, which includes a test and panel interview.

So… Assessment centres. When my sign-off mentor was going through the assessment centre process for the trust I am currently in, I was really nervous. It was just like interviewing for university all over again and I was so worried nerves would get the better of me. But on the day, it was honestly very relaxed and everyone was super friendly. At the end of the day, what you have to think is, they want it go to well for you and offer you the job, you just need to have confidence and faith in yourself 🙂

On the day, we were told to arrive for 9am but me being me, I arrived at 8:20am (doh!). But this wasn’t all bad as this gave me time to grab a coffee, have a sit down and a chat with the other applicants (there were 40 of us in total). Once 9am eventually arrived, we were taken to a room where we were registered, handed in our documents and were given a welcome talk. Following this, we did our numeracy, literacy and group exercise (again, this will vary from trust to trust).

After this, they arranged a question and answer session with members of HR, nurse educators and members of the nursing team in the trust, which was really useful as we were able to ask questions and gain information we might not have even thought about! We were then given our interview times and were able to grab some lunch.

Before I talk about the interview… I want to discuss portfolios. So, I didn’t realise until my sign-off mentor mentioned it that I would need to bring a portfolio with me to interview which needed to include evidence from practice, patient and staff feedback and any certificates/reflections from my degree. So I would highly advise putting one together throughout your degree and not last minute like I did!!

Anyway, back to the interview. So, luckily I knew one of my interviewers (the practice educator from my current ward) and the other interviewer I did not know, so it was a nice balance. I was immediately made to feel comfortable, as they were both so friendly! They asked me 5 questions (Again, this will vary from trust to trust). The first one was the general “why x hospital? Why x ward?” and the rest were clinical scenarios, safeguarding and questions about coping with stress.

I came out of the interview thinking it had gone really well, but I was told I’d have to wait a week for the outcome as they were interviewing all week as it was an assessment centre. Needless to say, it was the longest week of my life! But luckily, I was given the news I was being offered the job on my first choice ward. I was however, told I would receive a phone call to let me know the results, but I was informed by email. So, just to be mindful of that too 🙂

Overall, my biggest advice for interview would be to relax, be yourself and don’t over think it – they want you to do well, so show them how brilliant you are!

Alex 🙂 xx

A day in the life of a student nurse…


As the final placement of my nursing degree is coming to an end (4 weeks to go!) I thought I would reflect back and do a day in the life of a student nurse whilst on placement. Before I started the degree, I didn’t quite realise all the hard work that would go into doing a 12.5 hour shift and the earlry starts that would come with it!

I’m going to be talking about a typical day as a third year student nurse, but this is applicable to those going into first and second year placements as well, as responsibilities change as you progress but the care you give with stay the same 🙂

Also, as a student nurse, you will be expected to complete night shifts as part of your rota. But for this blog, I’ll be doing what happens in a day shift (as sometimes night shifts are very quiet!)

So here goes…

The night before: I always get my bag ready the night before (uniform, PAD document, shoes, pencil case ect…) because the last thing I want to be doing in the morning is packing my bag (this also lets me have an extra 10 minutes in bed… hooray!) I also make my lunch the night before and pop it in the fridge 🙂

Very early the next morning…

 05:20am – The dreaded alarm goes off. Usually, it goes on snooze until 05:45 then I’m forced to get up! Once I’ve managed to drag myself out of bed and into the cold, I’ll do all the normal get ready stuff (shower, hair wash, brush my teeth, do my hair ect…)

06:30 – After getting dressed in my comfy clothes, putting my coat on and grabbing my bag I head out the door to catch my bus (not forgetting my lunch of course!)

06:40 – Catch my bus to work. I have been lucky throughout my training and the furthest I have had to travel to placement is an hour each way. So depending on where you are placed/where you live you might be getting up a lot earlier or a lot later than me! At present, my bus journey takes around 20 minutes and a 10-15 minute walk to the hospital (Depending on how tired I am!)

07:10 – Arrive at work and start to get changed into my uniform.

07:15-07:45 – I like to arrive at work early to have a sit in the staff room and have some toast before I start work. I get so grumpy when I’m hungry and you never know how busy the day will be – so I always like to start with breakfast!

07:45 – The nurse from the previous shift comes into the staff room to handover but this process varies from ward to ward. The ward I am currently on only hands over any social concerns, infection concerns and patient’s to watch to the entire nursing team. We then leave the staff room, see which patient’s we have been allocated and then receive a full patient handover from the nurse. On other wards I have been on, the nurse in charge will go through each patient then the nurse looking after them on the previous shift will give a brief handover.

07:45-08:15 – As I am a third year final placement student, I am given my own workload of 1-4 patients (Depending on if I am on the ward or in our high dependency unit on that day). I receive a handover for my patients from the previous nurse who looked after them. Even though I am given my own patients, I am still allocated to work with a nurse who will help me out and who I can delegate care to when I am busy… sadly I can’t be in two places at once! :()

08:15-10:00 – After receiving handover from the previous nurse, I will then begin planning the care for my patients. I do this by taking into account when observations, medications, feeds and any investigations are due that day. I also make a list of people I need to contact such as dieticians or speech and language therapy. After I’ve done this, I’ll go and introduce myself to each of my patients and their families and update their daily planner. Following this, I’ll do my regular safety checks of my patient’s room (crash bell, working oxygen and correct equipment, working suction and correct equipment). I will then do an assessment of my patient including baseline observations and a neurological assessment. After I have completed this, I will sit and do my care plans. These vary but in my current placement, we do an A-E assessment (I will talk more in depth about this on an upcoming blog post!!) and write my plan for the day.

At some point after this… I will try and go on my “breakfast break”. At the trust I am currently at, they give a 30 minute breakfast break and 45 minutes for lunch. But this does vary!

The rest of the day until 19:00 (with a lunch break thrown in there somewhere!)

The rest of my day varies depending on the patient’s I have, their conditions and whether I’m in the high dependency bay or not. As I work on a busy medical and surgical ward, I am often caring for pre-operative, post-operative and medical admission patients. Aside from doing observations, feeds (oral/ng/peg/tpn), medication (oral/intravenous) and other assessments, I have many other things I need to do for my patients. I may have to organise investigations (x-ray, MRI, CT), contact various members of the child’s care team to come and review (doctors, specialist nurses, physiotherapists, speech and language therapy, dieticians etc..). I may also have to perform procedures such as sterile wound dressings, drain removals, cannula removals, feeding tube insertion/removal to name a few examples. I may also have to arrange a child’s admission to the ward or discharge home. This involves lots of forms, writing documentation and arrangements for transport, medication and liaising with other hospitals if the child is going back to their local one.

I try to make time to wash and change my patient’s if their parents or careers are not present, need help doing so or want healthcare professionals to do this. I take great pride in doing personal care for my patient’s and do this with dignity (we all know a wash, change of clothes and fresh bedding makes us all feel better! :))

19:00-19:30 – This is the point of my day where I write my patient evaluations for the day. I write about how they have been, if there are any nursing concerns, what investigations/procedures they may have had done, plan for the next shift.

19:45-20:30 – Handover to the next shift. As a third year final placement student, I handover all my patient’s to the next nurse, using SBAR (you’ll become very familiar with this when you start your degree!) and answer any questions.

…Then home time!

 By the time I get home, it is normally 21:00-21:30 and I sink into bed (after I’ve re-packed my bag of course!)

 Despite the days being very long and tiring, it’s more than worth it. I love my career and providing children and their family with the best care possible 🙂

Next week, I am on annual leave for placement as I have the final OSCE (practical exam) of my nursing degree… So I’d better get back to revising 🙂

Until next time…

Alex 🙂

A bit of advice…


As I’m nearly at the midpoint of my final placement as a student nurse, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately about what tips and tricks I wish I’d known before starting my nursing journey. So I’ve asked the first, second and third years on the ward what they think and together we’ve come up with this list…

Don’t buy books – the library has loads!

Before I even started the degree, both I and my family/friends were buying books left, right and centre – so many in fact my bookshelf looks like I bought an entire section of amazon! Jokes aside, out of the books I own, I have maybe regularly used 5-6 of them. To save space and more importantly, money, take advantage of your university library. Our university has a brilliant library where most of the books are available electronically, so it even saves you going into university! It also enables you to try books, if you want to buy them later… So you know what books are useful and what books aren’t.

Organise your revision/time management

I still don’t think I’ve cracked this one even going into third year! I’m usually quite organised in getting things done, I’m definitely not a person, but I still struggle to evenly distribute my time to essays/exams if they are due in at the same time. I’m currently juggling my dissertation, my leadership essay and my practical OSCE exam revision. I’ve done a “timetable” whereby, each day I’m off is allocated to one of these tasks and so far it’s been working! I would also recommend a good diary to put down all your deadlines. I also use a whiteboard I bought from pound land to keep all my important dates visible.

If you’re struggling – talk to someone!

Whether that is your friend, fellow course mates, lecturers, personal tutor… Talk to someone and let it all out. As I am on my final placement, I have a weekly reflective meeting with my sign off mentor to talk about my weekly progress and how I’m feeling. Every week she tells me “It’s okay if this week you’re struggling and if you ever need to talk, cry or just get something off your chest… let me know!” and she’s been the first mentor to ever say that to me. I never really thought about it before, but what she’s saying is right. As a student nurse, you’re constantly expected to be happy and enjoy the shift.. But we’re all human at the end of the day and sometimes that just doesn’t happen! And that’s okay 🙂

I also asked them what items they couldn’t have lived without during their nursing degree… 

  • A good fob watch – an essential!
  • A diary – your life will become a bit hectic with placement, exams and essays so I definitely couldn’t live without my diary!
  • Pens, pens and more pens…
  • Folders and notebooks for each module
  • A shift planner app for placement – there are loads available, just check the app store!
  • Good placement shoes – go for comfort, no one will care what the shoes look like on your feet and neither will you after a 12.5 hour shift!

And most importantly…

Have some time to yourself!

We all know nursing degrees are difficult and you feel like you are just studying or on placement constantly, but it is so important to de-stress, relax and take some time for yourself. Whether that’s doing a hobby you enjoy, going out with family/friends or just having a nap – go for it! Everyone needs to switch off and relax every now and then (I’d be very grumpy if I didn’t!)

Mini life update: I get lots of people saying to me “How’s third year?” “Can you believe you will be a qualified nurse soon?” “How fast has that gone?” …. In all honesty, everything is a blur at the moment! I’m trying to do well on my final placement, write my dissertation and leadership essay, teach junior students clinical skills whilst on placement to prepare for my OSCE and apply for jobs, all whilst trying to have a life! I’m not going to sugar coat it, the 12.5 hour day and night shifts are very exhausting… But the other day I got a comment from a mother who said “I couldn’t have got through the day without you Alex” and reflecting on it, that makes the stress 100% worth it.

New year, new post…


Hello everyone,

I hope you all had a relaxing break over Christmas and New Year!

As I’m about to start my final ever placement as a student paediatric nurse next week, I sat down and began thinking about when I was attending university interviews this time 3 years ago (crazy how time flies…). As none of my friends were applying to do nursing, I did a lot of research before I attended the interviews about what they might ask, things to research or the style of interview I might experience. So here are my top tips for preparing for your nursing interviews…

How can I prepare before?

Usually when a university invites you to an interview day, they will email you all the details you need to know – check the bottom of the email for any attachments such as practice Maths and English papers, information on the type of interview and any expectations for the interview. For example, they may give you a topic area to revise such as “current healthcare issues in the NHS” or may tell you to prepare a short presentation for the interview. However, in my experience, don’t stress yourself by trying to over prepare! After all, the purpose of the interview is for the university to see your raw passion for nursing, not a rehearsed script, so just be yourself!

As soon as you arrive at the interview, you will be being assessed in some way whether you think you are or not. When I got to my interviews, I spoke to as many of my fellow applicants as possible and tried to make friends (you never know who your fellow course mates might be next September!). It was also good as it really calmed my nerves and made me feel more relaxed – after all, everyone is in the same boat!

Types of interview

  • One-to-one interview: This style of interview is less commonly used in nursing at undergraduate level. This involves you being interviewed by a panel (number of people would depend on individual institution), usually consisting of lecturers from the university, a representative from the hospital trust and in some cases, a service user will also be in attendance. One-to-one interviews can sometimes be the most intimidating, as you are on your own, but take some deep breaths, think about your answers and if unsure, ask the interviewer to clarify their questions – you won’t lose any points for that! As well as what you say, think about how you’ll act in front of the interviewers… Think about eye contact, body language and signs you are listening to others contributions and being supportive – the interviewers are looking for these skills too! In this style of interview, you may get questions such as “why do you want to be a child nurse?” “Why this university?” “Can you tell me about a time when you showed…” or “name a time when you’ve used team working skills to complete a task?”
  • Group interview: This style of interview is also commonly used in nursing as it promotes good communication skills and team-work, which are essential components to be able to display when aspiring to work in healthcare. The group interview may be centred on a discussion or a group task, but this will vary depending on the university. But remember, it’s not always the loudest or the person who speaks the most who stands out in a group interview! It’s about quality, not quantity. In this situation, speak when appropriate and think about your answers before you say them. As with one-to-one interviews, think about eye contact, body language and signs you are listening to others contributions and being supportive – the interviewers are looking for these skills too!
  • MMI (Multiple Mini Interviews): This style of interview is becoming more common in nursing as it allows the interviewee to show evidence of care, compassion, communication and problem solving skills whilst being involved in a scenario. For example, a question, which may be asked, could be “If you were walking down the street and witnessed a child falling over and injuring themselves, what would you do?”. When answering these questions, take a minute to think about what you would do, but also think about the question being asked and what issues you need to consider before answering.

Numeracy and Literacy tests

At some universities, they will do numeracy and literacy tests on the same day as the interview, others will do testing prior to interview so if you haven’t completed any tests yet, don’t worry! It is an NMC requirement for universities who offer nursing courses to test applicants to ensure their English and Maths skills are at a certain level. However, it varies from university to university as to how the tests are set out and what kind of maths they include.

Numeracy: Some universities will allow you to use a calculator and some won’t, but don’t worry, if they won’t let you use a calculator, the maths will be easily done without one. Many of my entrance tests included addition, subtraction, division, percentages, conversions and reading measurements. However, some universities I attended asked these questions as more complicated scenario questions, so it required a bit more problem solving! If you want to practice your maths, I would recommend using “SNAP” or “BBC bite size”.

Literacy: These tests were very similar at all 5 interviews I attended. They usually involve a short grammar test, reading comprehension and a short essay question. The question is usually simple and relates to nursing, such as “What do you think the role of a children’s nurse is?”. These questions are looking at two things: your perception of what a children’s nurse does on a daily basis and your writing skills, for example: grammar, sentence structure and spelling.

Don’t forget your documents!

When you attend at interview, most universities will ask you to bring certain documents with you, so they can verify your identity and your current qualifications. For example, the documents I took with me to my interviews were: Passport or/driving licence, birth certificate, GCSE (or equivalent) qualifications, AS/A-level qualifications (or equivalent) and a passport sized photograph of myself (not all universities ask for this). Universities also ask if possible, for you to bring photocopies as well as originals documents. These are usually returned to you after the interview.

What do I wear?!

Looking back, this was a big question I was constantly asking people because I kept thinking, “well I don’t want to go too dressed up, but I also don’t want to dress too casually”. From my experience, people turn up to interviews in all different types of dress… But for me, as long as you look smart, that’s the main thing. After all, you will need to be smart in your nursing uniform. For girls – you can’t go wrong with some smart trousers or a skirt and a nice top. For boys – wear a suit, or smart trousers and a shirt and tie J


My final and most important tip is… Don’t stress, be yourself and just go for it! Let your passion for nursing shine through.


Alex 🙂

Christmas advice…


So we’re all trying to get into the Christmas spirit – spending time with family, celebrating the end of another year, eating and drinking our body weight in food; I mean that’s what Christmas is all about isn’t it fun and relaxation…

Hmmm, now I’m a third year child student with a dissertation, a mahoosive essay, final placement preparations and a mountain of other work looming… I’m certainly not relaxing this Christmas!

But thinking back to 2014,  I had sent my UCAS application off on my birthday the month before (happy birthday to me!) and I was waiting patiently, nervously, anxiously for anything more than a “thank you, we have received your application email” from my chosen universities.

Despite having until late January to complete my application (so don’t worry if you haven’t quite completed yours yet!) I was eager to send mine off and get the process going. I’d like to think I’m quite organised and I was aware I’d be travelling back and forth to London for selection days, so I wanted time to plan and prepare to give myself the best chance of getting in.

When I was completing my UCAS application and personal statement, I didn’t really have much guidance about what to write and include. But I was very lucky my lovely auntie was an experienced nurse and my other auntie works in management in the NHS, so I had there help and at the time, I don’t think I could have written it without them! So if you’re starting your application and are stuck, please seek help from someone – it’s amazing how someone else’s perspective can make things clearer and ideas just pop into your head.

My first thoughts when I was sitting down staring at the blank “personal statement” screen were… what am I supposed to write about myself in 4000 characters? How do I make myself stand out from the crowd? Why would this university want me?

 So here are my top tips for making your UCAS application stand out!

1: Why nursing? Why child nursing?

  • Make your passion and ambition clear – what sparked your interest in child nursing, what makes it stand out for you?
  • Try to weave your passion for child nursing throughout your whole statement – don’t just mention it at the start then forget about it.
  • Even if your experience isn’t with children, still include it – any experience is good experience!

2: What experience do you have which sets you apart?

  • Any experience is good experience!
  • I was lucky I worked as an outpatient receptionist for a few years before I started my degree so I used that as a basis for my experience section
  • Volunteering, jobs, baby sitting, brothers and sisters, family members
  • Mentoring, tutoring, any roles you took at school (I was a prefect and a school buddy for younger students)
  • Personal experiences with family members

And remember, if you don’t think you have much experience – you’ll have more than you think once you start writing! Some of my fellow students had barely any experience (and some had never even held a baby!) and they got onto the course and are making fabulous children’s nurses.

  1. Other tips
  • Link your experiences and passion to qualities you think a nurse should have. For example, you go to gymnastics every week – that shows real commitment. You did DoE – commitment, teamwork and leadership skills. So even if you don’t think it’s relevant – it can be! Mention your transferable skills and what you can bring to the profession.
  • Get your friends, family, neighbors and even your dog to read, read and re-read! It always sounds different when someone else reads it and you can get a feel of how an admissions tutor may view it. Also, if you need to cut down some words, a new perspective is always helpful.
  • Do a list of all the things you want to write then tick them off as you go along to ensure you don’t forget anything important.
  • Don’t share your personal statement with anyone, or don’t copy anyone else’s! It’s really not worth it.

But my biggest tip, is just remember why you want to study child nursing and how you think you’re going to make a different if you’re given the privileged opportunity to look after children and their families.

Oh and a last bit of advice… If you have sent your UCAS application off, don’t stress and check your emails every 5 minutes over Christmas like I did back in 2014!

Have a relaxing holiday everyone,

Alex 🙂

My first few weeks at City and settling into student life


After receiving my offer in February 2014 to study children’s nursing I had plenty of time to prepare for the big move to London. I was working full-time as an outpatient receptionist, so I was able to start buying bits and pieces to get prepared for moving out… Little did I know how much I would actually need! My Nan’s spare room ended up looking like a showroom display from IKEA, much to her enjoyment. Moving day arrived and as we packed up the car (with great difficulty!), it all of a sudden became more of a reality than dream, I was heading off to start my nursing degree (after many times I thought it would never happen…)

I always knew I wanted to study in London but moving from Nottingham, although it is a big city, was a bigger transition than I ever imagined. . Moving day arrived and after months and months of planning, I was starting to feel nervous! Don’t get me wrong, I was excited/happy/eager to get started, but the realisation that I was leaving my family, friends and home had started to sink in and all of a sudden, I was really apprehensive about leaving everything I knew. After saying goodbye to my family, we set off in the car and it was the longest car journey of my life- However, as we kept driving down the motorway and the miles to London became less and less, my excitement grew.

On arrival at my halls of residence, I was greeted by the friendly reception staff who gave me my keys after completing all the admin stuff. They showed me to my room (the staff even helped me and my family bring my mountain of bags and boxes up!). They told me all the basics of who to contact if I needed anything and where to find particular things available in my halls such as the gym, common room, post room and laundry facilities. I’m not going to lie, when my family left me, I felt very alone and isolated. I kept myself busy for a few hours trying to organise my room, un-pack the mountain of bags and boxes and then I sat on my bed and had a little sob!- Looking back on it, I feel so silly because my family and friends were only a phone call/train ride away, but at the time it was really hard. I think this was the part I found most challenging about starting at university. But once the initial first night nerves were over, I started to settle in and enjoy the experience.

I lived in private accommodation in my first year, where not all students were from City, they studied different courses to me and some of them were mature students- so I wasn’t sure how I would make friends and if I would have anything in common with anyone. I moved in first as nursing courses start a few weeks before ‘normal’ courses and fresher’s events- so I had to wait a few days for my flat mates to move in. I lived with 5 girls in first year and although it wasn’t always harmonious (5 girls living together, there may be a few disagreements), I had a really good first year experience which helped me to adjust to being an adult (just about!) and living independently. When I moved into halls, I suddenly realised I had to do everything on my own- washing, cooking, cleaning, buying food and day-to-day essentials (I was clueless about what washing powder to buy and how to apply to be on the electoral roll!!!) but somehow I muddled through.

As my induction to university started on the Monday, I moved to London on the Saturday before. I thought I would give myself a day-or-so to settle in, get my room the way I wanted it and so I could

explore the local area. I even did a test-run to university on Sunday to see how long it would take me to get to my 09:00 lecture the next morning- it’s always best to be prepared, especially in London!

The induction two weeks for the School of Health Sciences were really crucial for me and helped make me feel like I would settle into university, meet friends and most of all made university seem less daunting. The first few days were all about registration, DBS checks, occupational health screening and uniform fittings so I really felt like I was going to be a student nurse and although looking back it seems trivial I was so excited. As induction continued, I got to meet people on my course and started to make friends; I made sure to say hello to as many people as I could (after all, we were going to be spending the next 3 years together!). During induction we had sessions about the course structure, biology, placement, professional practice and had specific course sessions where we got to meet our lecturers and find out more about them. This was really informative for me and made university seem a bit more personal knowing the academic background of my lecturers and who would be teaching me for the next 3 years. The only thing – there is such a wealth of information being thrown at you, by the time the end of each day came, my brain was fried! But it all sunk it eventually…

In the second week of induction, I attended the Fresher’s Fair which is an event held every year for students to promote the services available in the university, events, societies and best of all… lots of freebies! The highlight of Fresher’s Fair for me were the discounted dominoes vouchers and all the free pens (that must be the nurse in me coming out). Whilst I was there, I was able to apply for my student oyster card, find out more about the student ambassador scheme at the university and get information on loads of ways to save money as a student. During fresher’s week, I also took the time to explore London and get to know the City I would be spending the next 3 years in. People always say to me “oh how do you live in London, it’s so expensive!” but there’s loads of free things to do and one of my favourite things to do is to walk along Southbank – it’s so pretty at night!

Looking back on those first few weeks, it’s so important to remember we were all in the same boat and probably had the same worries and nerves, so you’re not alone! Nearly 3 years later, we all still support each other because we’re in this together, you really do make friends for life. If I could give myself one bit of advice if I was to be a fresher again, it would be… Don’t lose your £8 travel card on your first day, don’t let nerves hold you back and most of all- enjoy it!

Why I was drawn to child nursing

I remember I was 11 the first time I said I wanted to be a nurse. I think my parents thought I would grow out of it, I said I wanted to be many things when I was younger (a lawyer, a vet, a doctor… even a barmaid!) but nursing was the one dream that never went away. When I was 15 my dad was diagnosed with cancer; he used to go around telling everyone “my daughter is going to be a nurse” and the thought made him as proud as punch. My dad sadly passed away, but I realised that the experiences of helping to look after him at home and helping the district nurses, that I really did have a passion and drive to become a nurse.

From that point on, I did a lot of research and thinking about what branch of nursing I wanted to do. Did I want to be an adult nurse? A children’s nurse? A mental health nurse? I organised various work experience in each field so I could get a good depth and breadth of each field as that would help me decide which route I wanted to go down. I did work experience on a children’s ward, an adult hospice and in outpatients at my local hospital shadowing doctors, nurses and nurse specialists. From observing healthcare professionals working within these settings and communicating with the patients, families and carers I was able to make a comprehensive decision about the path which was right for me. I also discussed my options with a lot of nurses, family and friends and they all said “you need to do what feels right in your heart, where can you see yourself working in 10 or 20 years? Can you see yourself looking forward to going to work in this area? Where is the most rewarding for you?” and I knew the answer was working with children.

I have a passion for working with children and their families, so I was more drawn to this field. People have always told me I’m good with children as I am very calm, approachable and I have a positive attitude. Even though sometimes, no matter how calm and positive you are, you are the last person the child wants near them! The first time I made a child cry, I was horrified (as you can imagine!) and I felt so guilty for ages thinking “Did I do something wrong?” but as it is a day to day part of my job, you get used to it and develop strategies to deal with this. There’s a lot of parental support and play involved in children’s nursing and you very quickly pick up the fine art of distraction!

I love studying children’s nursing because there is so much scope and opportunity available in all the different areas children’s nurses work in. During my placements I have been to general wards, specialist wards, A&E, intensive care, a hospice, community settings and a special school. This has shown me that as I move through my career I can continue to build on my existing skills in a variety of settings. It has also given me a good basis to decide when I do eventually qualify, where I can see myself working and starting my nursing career.

Whether I’m the first face they see at admission, one of the nurses looking after them during their treatment or the nurse who eventually discharges them home, I want to be the nurse who they think; “that nurse really made a difference and she really went the extra mile”. Sometimes, even the simplest things like offering a drink, an activity to take their mind off things or a listening ear to mum or dad really helps make someone’s day better – it’s not always about the medical stuff!

And it’s not just the practical side of nursing I enjoy; believe it or not, I also enjoy the academic side! Throughout the course, we are taught subjects such as anatomy and physiology, laws and ethics, medicines management and the rationale behind basic care of our patients. We are taught practical skills such as basic observations, wound dressings and essential assessment skills. What we learn in the classroom is then built upon in placement as you use everything you learn daily in the assessment and care of my patients. I also love that there are always things to be learnt in nursing and even nurses who have been qualified for years tell me they never stop learning! When I am on placement and come across a condition, medication or treatment I have not come across before, I always make a point of writing it down in my diary and researching it later. You never know when you might come across it again and you might be the only student/staff member who knows what it is!

Even now coming to the end of my second placement of third year, when a parent or colleague says “you can really tell you’re a children’s nurse” and when I think of my dad being proud as punch saying “my daughter is going to be a nurse”, I am so proud of the career path I have chosen and my confidence is boosted to know I’m going to make a difference to the children and families I care for in years to come! 

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London EC1V 0HB

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City, University of London is an independent member institution of the University of London. Established by Royal Charter in 1836, the University of London consists of 18 independent member institutions with outstanding global reputations and several prestigious central academic bodies and activities.

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