Record number of applicants for healthcare courses

A record number of students have accepted places to study on healthcare courses in 2020 – joining the front line of the NHS in the wake of the pandemic.

Midwifery Skills Lab at University of Wolverhampton's Sister Dora building, pictured are Sophie Chester, Beth Proctor and Tiffany Parker
Midwifery Skills Lab at University of Wolverhampton's Sister Dora building, pictured are Sophie Chester, Beth Proctor and Tiffany Parker

The latest data on university admissions, published by UCAS, shows there were 29,740 acceptances to nursing and midwifery courses in England, the highest number ever recorded.

Student paramedics Chloe Nicholls, Emily Turner, student nurses Haifa Abd Al Hakeem, lecturer in adult nursing: Charlotte Bradbury, and student paramedic Lottie Hadley

That was 6,110 more than last year and an increase of 26 per cent.

It is thought the heroic duties of staff in the NHS have undertaken throughout the pandemic has influenced the increase in the number of applicants.

More students than ever have applied for nursing and healthcare courses

At the University of Wolverhampton, applications for nursing, midwifery or related health programmes have increased by more than 40 per cent for applications for 2020/21 academic year, in comparison to the 2019/20 academic year.

Sharon Arkell, associate dean and director of the institute of health at University of Wolverhampton, said: “Health related careers are immensely rewarding and have been brought into the spotlight with the current coronavirus pandemic.

"It’s fantastic to see an increase in the number of prospective students from the local region interested in studying and having a career in nursing and other health related programmes.

"Local health care providers are working closely with the University to accommodate the increased student numbers, which will support them in meeting their future workforce requirements."

As part of the university’s commitment to bridging the gap in the healthcare sector, it has invested £4.8 million in the redevelopment of the Sister Dora Building at the Walsall campus, creating new simulation labs and state-of-the-art teaching rooms to cater for an increase in healthcare students.

Applicants and acceptances to UCAS nursing courses in England from 2007 to 2020 (Data from UCAS)

Data from UCAS showed that the period during lockdown, from March 23 to June 30, saw nearly double the number of applications to nursing courses compared to the previous year.

Minister for Care Helen Whately said: “It’s fantastic to see so many people choosing to pursue a career in nursing and midwifery, with over a quarter more students starting on courses.

"This year has shown just how much we depend on nurses. I have no doubt that their incredible work has inspired the next generation to pursue careers in the NHS and social care."

UCAS data has shown applicant numbers for nursing are up 15 per cent year-on-year, to reach 46,680 in total.

The number of new nursing applicants in the period between January and June was 63 per cent higher than the same period last year, 12,840 in 2020, compared to 7,880 in 2019.

Sexes of applicants to nursing courses in England in 2020 (Data from UCAS)

A 25-year-old, from Dudley, who studied at University of Worcester, faced the pandemic first-hand, completing placements as a community district nurse and neonatal intensive care.

The worker, who wished to remain anonymous, was faced a number of challenges with PPE and sanitisation, as well as the mental and emotional pressure caused by staff isolating and losing patients to the virus.

She said: "Working as a support worker on the adult care wardsat its worst, it was wholly Covid related during the first peak. Staff became patients.

"What’s been hard is having people poorly on their own without visitors.

"Although I didn’t work on the worst-hit wards, the effects of Covid definitely resonated throughout the trust."

Speaking about the boost in the number of applications to healthcare courses, she added: "Considering the lack of funding like the bursaries that used to exist, I am very surprised.

"There are so many roles from nursing, medicine, radiology, admin roles, there’s so many avenues to follow.

"It’s reassuring to know that the pandemic and some public perception hasn’t put people off wanting to work in healthcare.

"It’s so varied and rewarding and really opens your eyes to what actually goes on in healthcare settings, and also makes you realise how unfortunate others’ circumstances can be.

"It’s stressful and can be emotional but incredibly rewarding."

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