The Rough Guide to Going to College - Nursing
The Leaving
Choosing A Course
Other Options
Living Away From Home

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Nursing is a popular career choice among the girls, and the odd boy. Last year, there were 4 applicants for each place on the three year college-associated diploma courses which prepare students for a career in.nursing. Some students applied for more than one type of nurse training so the number of applications exceeded the number of applicants. Nursing places are not allocated through the CAO. This year, An Bord Altrainais will take over the management of the Nursing Applications Centre, Which deals with General Psychiatric Nursing and the centre has been renamed the Nursing Careers Centre. The Mental Handicap Nurse - National Applications Centre will continue to look after this branch of training.

The application process, and indeed, nurse education itself, is in a state of transition. At present all applicants are called to an assessment test, on the basis of their results, a proportion are called for an interview, early in the summer. Last year, roughly 4,000 people sat the assessment test for general and psychiatric nursing and some 1,600 were called to interview. Applicants are ranked on the basis of the interview and, subject to students attaining certain minimum educational standards in the Leaving Certificate, they are offered places. An additional 10 per cent of the interview mark is awarded to candidates who fulfil the Leaving - Cert, requirements in one sitting.

Educational requirements
The minimum educational standards have been the cause of much bitching among applicants and their guidance counsellors. NUI matriculation requirements were imposed on all students. This was a historical thing as the course was first piloted in NUI Galway in 1994. The reason for the discontent was the requirement for English, Irish and a third language. This year, An Bord Altranais's minimum requirements apply, and as well, each college specifies other requirements. An Bord Altrainis requires students to be at least 17 on June 1st, in the year of application and to have two higher-level C3s and four grade D3s in pass papers in the Leaving Cert. in the following 3 subjects: English or Irish; maths; a lab science subject (biology, physics, chemistry [joint] or agricultural science); 3 other subjects. Students can accumulate the minimum requirements over two sittings of the Leaving. The additional educational requirements laid down by the TCD and UL requiring English and a language other than English and the NUI colleges (UCC, UCD, NUI, Galway and St Angela's College, Sligo) retaining the NUI requirements. The institutes, of technology in Athlone, Dundalk, Letterkenny, Waterford and DCU do not specify any additional requirements. The IGC welcome "the removal of the 3rd language requirement form 4 of the 5 accrediting bodies. This increased flexibility and the clarity of the application procedure are helpful in promoting the option of nursing as a career choice.

Some dates to watch out for:
General and psychiatric nursing competitions will be advertised on Thursday, January 21st, Friday the 22nd and Sunday the 24th. The closing date for completed applications is Friday, February 19th. Assessment tests will be held in early April and interviews will be held at the end of June and the 1st 3 weeks in July. The National Applications Centre - Mental Handicap will hold a separate competition and selection process. The competition for places will be advertised on Sunday, April 11th.

Nurse Education
The old style of training has been replaced by a 3 year diploma. And in 2002, this diploma will be replaced by a 4 year degree programme, with places offered through the CAO. If you are applying for nurse training, you will complete the 3 year full time programme. Trainee nurses are paid an annual non-means-tested grant by the relevant health board or hospital. Uniforms are provided to students free of charge and free meals are available. Textbooks are supplied up to the value of 200. Graduates of the 3-Year diploma have the further option of doing a further 1 year full-time to gain a degree. The free fees initiative does not apply here and students have to pay around 2000. This is an abnormality in the education system, as other students who pursue the certificate/diploma/degree route are eligible for free fees as they progress up the ladder of opportunity at undergraduate level. The argument has been made that the diploma is sufficient to meet An Bord Altrainais requirements, but all of the national diplomas offered by the institutes of technology are also complete in themselves. Nursing students would be treated in the same manner as other third-level students and eligible to apply for means-tested maintenance grants in the normal way. They will be paid 80 per cent of a first-year staff nurse's salary during their 12 months work placement.

Other recommendations of the Nursing Commission include the establishment of a bursary or sponsorship system to promote applications by mature students. It also recommends that the board promote the profession as a career option among male candidates. Nursing remains a predominantly female profession. Of the total number of nurses and mid-wives registered with An Bord Altranais at the end of 1996, 93 per cent were women.

Nursing as a career
Of the 27,264 nurses employed by the health boards and voluntary hospitals or agencies, 95 per cent are at staff nurse grade. The Nursing Commission has made a number of recommendations on career development for nurses. These include the establishment of a national council and the provision of a three-step clinical pathway, so that nurses can progress from registered nurse/ midwife to clinical nurse or midwife specialist and advanced nurse or midwife practitioner. As to job prospects, at present there is a staffing crisis in most hospitals, so qualified nurses are virtually guaranteed a job. The Nursing Careers Centre has just produced an up-to-the-minute booklet on nursing as a career. This provides general information on nursing, nurse education and training and continuing professional education. The Nursing Careers Centre (general and psychiatric nursing) can be contacted at PO Box 6703, Dublin 2. The National Application Centre - Mental Handicap) is at PO Box 3017, Dublin 15.

Nurse training in the UK
Students who are disappointed in their application for nurse training in the Republic may consider going overseas. Entry into nursing in the UK is also via a third level qualification. You can opt for a 3 year diploma or a 3 year B.Sc in nursing studies, depending on your Leaving Cert. results. Nursing courses are exempt from the tuition fees which have been reintroduced in British colleges (students on other undergraduate courses pay on a sliding scale up to a maximum of 1,000 sterling per year, depending on their means). Applications for nursing in Britain are through the British central applications body, UCAS, or the Nursing and Midwifery Admissions Service.


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Copyright © David Dineen/Gary Burns/Christopher Kennedy 1999. Email: