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Demand for Healthcare and Nursing courses rises amid pandemic

Eastleigh College is reporting a third more school-leavers applying for its range of Health and Social Care courses, including the unique Pathway to Nursing course that the college runs in partnership with University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust.

The surge in demand for the Level 2 and Level 3 courses is being attributed to the coronavirus, and is in line with today’s news from the BBC that UCAS has witnessed record numbers of students applying to study nursing at universities.

The UCAS figures show there were 60,130 applicants for nursing by the 29 January application deadline, and the government says it is another step closer to delivering its commitment to adding 50,000 more nurses to the NHS workforce by 2025.

Lou Gittens, Eastleigh College’s Vice Principal of Curriculum, puts the increase in school-leavers opting for nursing and health care courses down to the emotive stories the profession has shared via the media since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.  She said: “It may be, in part, that healthcare is seen as a ‘safe’ career, but I think it is more than that. We work closely with our local hospital trust and our students see first-hand the impact the pandemic is having. During our open events, school-leavers learn about the rewarding and accessible career paths available, but also of the hard work and commitment needed, especially in these unprecedented times.

“Far from putting school pupils off, the pandemic appears to have truly inspired the next generation of nursing and healthcare professionals. Applications are at an all-time high.” Lou added: “Students who achieved healthcare qualifications at Eastleigh College last year have taken a variety of different career paths. Some moved directly into working in the sector after leaving college, while many chose to start nursing degrees or nursing degree apprenticeships.”

Molly Morris studied a Level 3 Health & Social Care course at Eastleigh College before starting a Nursing Degree Apprenticeship with University Hospital Southampton last summer. Molly said: “I already knew I wanted to be a nurse, but the coronavirus situation made me even more passionate and excited to work in the healthcare sector. The pandemic has been eye-opening, but not made me rethink my career choice.”

Another Health & Social Care alumni is Gerson Sunggay, who is now working directly caring for Covid patients as a staff nurse in the critical care department at Basingstoke Hospital. Gerson said: “The overarching feeling I have being part of the NHS during this difficult time is pride. I love what I do and I take great pride in it. 

“We are faced with situations and I never imagined when I first started working as a nurse, and I’m just in awe of how my team has coped and how we continue to pull together as a team. It is rewarding to see the success stories we have in critical care and always reminds me that there is hope and light at the end of the tunnel.”

School and college-leavers aren’t the only ones inspired to work within the NHS. Lou believes that an increase in applications for the college’s Access to HE courses indicated that the healthcare workforce is also likely to be boosted by older individuals: “Our one-year Access courses are a stepping-stone for anyone considering a second career that necessitates having a degree, and applications for our Access to Medicine and Access to Healthcare Professions courses have increased by more than 25% compared to last year.

“The rise in interest is likely to be those looking for new career paths following Covid-related redundancies or may simply be people inspired to rethink their roles and choosing to embark on a more holistic and purposeful career.”

Lou added: “Healthcare careers via progression to university is particularly appealing to many as nursing and some other healthcare degrees are eligible for a £15,000 NHS bursary. While students are still able to access funding from Student Finance England, this bursary provides the opportunity for students to leave university with a degree with high employability and no living cost debt.”

The government’s re-introduced NHS bursary scheme provides students taking a degree in nursing, midwifery and many allied health professions courses with a minimum guaranteed sum of £5,000 per year. An additional £3,000 is available for eligible students. The NHS's health careers website provides up-to-date information.

School-leavers, college-leavers and adults interested in pursuing a career in healthcare - including nursing, counselling, dental nursing or other healthcare or medical practitioner - can find out about the wide range of courses at Eastleigh College’s open event on Thursday 18 March.