Posted Tuesday 5 August 2014
Narrowly missing out on the A-level results she needed to take up her first choice university place didn't put nursing student Ella Nicklin off course for long. The 19-year-old first year adult nursing student was determined she wasn't going to lose sight of her goal of pursuing a career in healthcare and promptly decided to make the most of alternative remedies offered through Clearing. "I'd already decided that nursing was the career for me during the first year of my A-levels as I felt it would really suit my communication skills and natural empathy, plus I'm not the kind of person who just wanted to sit constantly in a lecture theatre for an entire three years," she explained.
Ella admits she knew very little about the Clearing process itself when she started exploring other university options. "I realised I needed to set to work searching the internet for those universities with a few remaining spaces before browsing their websites to find out more about them," she said.
Ella's research led her to the Kingston University website and, armed with some more background about the University and its location, she soon overcame her nerves to make a call to its Clearing hotline. "I'm originally from the countryside on the outskirts of Winchester, so moving to London wasn't an immediately obvious choice," she said. "When I had a more detailed look at the area around Kingston though, I realised that there were beautiful open spaces like Richmond Park nearby which really appealed to the country girl in me."
Thinking back to the day she received her A-level grades still stirs a range of emotions in Ella. "If things haven't quite gone your way and you're feeling disappointed, selling yourself over the phone in a couple of minutes to a university can seem quite daunting," she said. "I was grateful that Kingston University seemed to pay as much attention to why I was passionate about nursing as it did to my grades, which helped to set my mind at rest as the conversation with the hotline operator went on. I felt the university was genuinely interested in me as a person. Having my mum close by to provide emotional support while I made that all-important call really helped too."
After explaining her circumstances to the Clearing hotline operator, she was promptly invited to a course selection day and got a first-hand glimpse of the School of Nursing, run jointly by Kingston University and St George's, University of London. "That experience made me feel like I really mattered and that's carried on right throughout my first year at the Kingston Hill campus, which I've thoroughly enjoyed. I'm really throwing myself into making the most of everything my course has to offer."
Ella can sense she has already developed personally as well as professionally after immersing herself in her degree studies. "The first time I stepped on to a hospital ward, I was absolutely petrified," Ella admitted. "But the amazing opportunities we have to spend time learning and practising techniques ranging from basic first aid to manually reading blood pressure in the university's skills laboratories, which are like mock hospital wards, mean that my confidence has quickly grown. Simulated exercises, where we get the chance to run through real-life nursing scenarios, have been a brilliant way to learn. Recently, I had the opportunity to work with an actor who played the role of a patient with dementia, which gave me the chance to put my communication skills to the test in a controlled environment."
To hone that knowledge even further, it was also important for students to make the most of periods on work placements in hospitals and other healthcare settings, Ella advised. "Having plenty of get up and go and a caring, compassionate approach is so important on a nursing degree," she added. "My biggest achievements so far have come when I've stepped out of my comfort zone and made a real effort to find out as much as possible during my time on the wards."
Ella is currently based at St George's Hospital in London on her third practice placement, having previously worked in community care in Battersea and in St George's stroke unit. "There are so many different types of nursing and there is so much to experience during my time at university, so I want to make the very most of the opportunity and try out a range of things before I make up my mind about exactly which area I'll specialise in eventually," she said. "It's amazing how far I've come in a year and I'm so glad Clearing gave me that chance."