Diploma in Nursing – Kickstarting your Career
If you’re dreaming of becoming a nurse, the first thing you will need are the necessary qualifications. However, if you don’t fancy the idea of studying a full nursing degree, there are still plenty of other ways to get into this rewarding profession.
One of the best routes into a career as a nurse is by studying for a nursing diploma. But what exactly is a diploma in nursing, and how do you know if it’s right for you?
Who would a nursing diploma suit?
Beginning any form of nursing training is a real commitment, so the first thing you need to figure out before choosing a course is if it is the right path for you. Every prospective nurse needs to have certain personal qualities such as compassion, dedication, critical thinking and organisation. Of course, no-one expects diploma students to be the perfect nurse straight away – throughout the course of training you are sure to develop many of the skills you will need. However, you must be sure you are going into this field for the right reasons – to help others and be rewarded by a dynamic and challenging career.
Specific nursing diploma entry requirements
As with any other qualification, nursing diplomas have specific entry requirements that prospective students must complete in order to gain a place. These will differ to some extent between various courses and institutions, however, the RCN list the following as basic application requirements for any nursing course:
- Demonstrate evidence of literacy and numeracy.
- Complete a health questionnaire and identify any special needs related to a disability.
- Declare any past criminal convictions and allow the university to check whether you have a police record.
The great thing about nursing diplomas is that they allow for transferable skills in the application process. For example, if you already have a degree in a relevant subject, you can apply for Accreditation of Prior Experiential Learning (APEL), which may allow you to complete the course in a shorter period of time.
About the course
You may be wondering what a nursing diploma comprises. Nursing diplomas are otherwise known as the pre-registration nursing diploma of higher education (DipHE). They provide an academic and professional qualification in nursing, combining theoretical study and vocational training through supervised nursing practice.
“Supervised nursing practice is 50% of the programme and takes place in both hospital and community settings. The programmes are three years in length, beginning with a 12 or 18 month common foundation programme (CFP) followed by an 18 or 24 month branch programme in one of the four nursing branches: adult, mental health, learning disabilities or children’s nursing.”
At the end of the course of study, you will not be a registered nurse, but you will be prepared for any entry-level nursing position.
How does a diploma differ from a degree?
Diploma students complete fewer credits at each level of study, making degree courses more academically intensive than diplomas. Although a diploma is less academically intensive than a degree, both types of courses feature a 50/50 split of theory and practical learning. Therefore, you must be prepared to study and train in every setting, from shadowing on a ward to writing essays in a classroom.
Nursing diplomas tend to require lower levels of academic qualifications at the point of entry, making them accessible for a wider range of people.
Many higher education institutions also offer individuals the opportunity to study an advanced diploma. These require A Levels, but often have a lower UCAS point entry grade than degrees – perfect for those who have slightly lower grades. The great thing about an advanced diploma is that it gives you more credits at level 3, making it quicker if you decide to top up your qualifications to degree level at a later date.
Nursing diplomas can be studied full-time over three years, or part-time over a longer period. The part-time option may be suitable for you if you want to keep working to fund your studies, or if you have a family to care for.
Another great thing about nursing diplomas is that there is no difference in starting pay grades for degree or diploma qualified nurses. Diplomas also allow nurses to top up their qualification to become a degree if they wish to progress beyond entry-level positions.
The different nursing diplomas
Just like traditional nursing degrees, nursing diplomas require you to choose a specialism. This will allow you to gain the specific knowledge, skills and protocol associated with the many different forms of nursing.
The main four specialisms a student nurse can choose from are:
- adult nursing,
- child nursing,
- mental health nursing, and
- learning disability nursing.The Royal College of Nursing explains that each path provides further opportunities to grow your level of expertise. For example, adult nurses can take extra courses to specialise in areas such as women’s health, accident and emergency, critical care, practice nursing and health visiting. Children’s nurses, however, can branch into school nursing, intensive care, child safeguarding and cancer care. Mental health nurses may choose to specialise in rehabilitation, child and adolescent mental health, substance misuse or working in secure settings, whereas learning disability nurses can develop expertise in epilepsy management or working with people with sensory impairment.
Different diploma curriculums will vary in their course content, but all programmes will include aspects of clinical practice, basic pharmacology, nursing informatics and elements of patient care. However, it is always wise to have an idea of the area you wish to progress into so you can choose the right nursing diploma for you.
Applying for a nursing diploma
The process of applying for a nursing diploma is simple. First of all, you need to select the courses you want to apply for. Using the NHS course finder is a great way to start your search. Then, apply through UCAS with your educational records, CV and a personal statement explaining why you want to become a nurse and why you think you would be a good student for the diploma. Choose five institutions, and send off your application!
How a nursing diploma kick-starts your career
A nursing diploma is a brilliant way to kick-start your career in nursing. Their easy accessibility make them a great first step for individuals who don’t have the standard educational background required for a degree programme. They are also a great path for people who wish to get into nursing after a different career without having to go back to college to get specific A Levels and other qualifications first. A nursing diploma is also fantastic for those looking for a flexible study arrangement to accommodate part-time work or those caring for dependents.
Nursing diplomas provide the theoretical and practical skills for individuals to begin the journey to any form of nursing. Whether you eventually dream of working alongside surgeons in theatre, working in a GP surgery, supporting patients in nursing and residential homes, or going into service in occupational health, voluntary organisations, the pharmaceutical industry, or even the military.
Find out more about nursing diplomas and how to get into a career as a nurse please take a look at the information on our nursing lounge.