The global pandemic has really thrust the healthcare industry into the spotlight. Doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers have been on the front line working to keep the public safe — a job that is tough but plays a vital role in our society.

It’s no surprise that there has been an increase in the number of young people wanting to study for a career in health. Applications for nursing courses have risen by 32 per cent, while the number of students accepted onto medicine courses has also risen significantly compared to recent years.

If you’re interested in embarking on a career in health, you’ll be entering an industry that’s constantly evolving and developing, with opportunities that could take you all over the world.

But despite the increasing number of places, entry to health-related university courses is still competitive. The application process is critical, but for those who are serious about a career in health, a lot of hard work is needed before you even begin your journey.

Learn more about the growing interest in health-related careers and how to shine during the application process.

The generation inspired by COVID-19

The NHS celebrated its 70th birthday back in 2018, using the anniversary to launch a multi-million TV advertising campaign targeted at nursing recruitment. Back then, there were more than 34,000 nursing vacancies in the UK — a significant shortage even in the days before the global pandemic. Titled ‘We are the NHS’, nobody could have predicted that just two years later, scenes from the NHS would dominate our screens each day, highlighting the important work of our nurses and doctors — a true reflection of the work of the NHS. It’s not an advert that anyone would have wanted to pay for, but it has certainly done the job of inspiring a whole new generation to embark on careers in nursing and in the healthcare industry.

Prospective nursing and medicine applicants have faced many challenges over the years. A shortage of degree places for medicine compared to demand means spaces are limited, and many students are put off even making an application.

For nursing, the challenges brought on by a lack of funding had seen a decrease in the number of applicants for degree places. Following the announcement of a new funding model and the increased interest in nursing following the pandemic, there has now been a significant rise in the numbers of people who have applied for a place to study nursing this year.

Making your application count

While the need for more doctors and nurses remains significant, it doesn’t mean that an application for a nursing or medical degree is a walk in the park. Places remain competitive, and if you want to land one of those coveted spots, you’re going to need to work hard on your application to show exactly why you deserve one.

Take a look at the following tips to help you with your application.

  • Make sure it’s what you really want

A career in health is challenging, interesting and rewarding. But it’s also a lot of hard work. It’s important to research any career carefully to give you a better understanding of what to expect. Read about or speak to those in the profession and their real-life experiences. Studying for a nursing or medicine degree takes many years and is not something to be entered into lightly. Your health is your number one priority, and the stress of studying shouldn’t be ignored when making your degree choices.

  • Choose the right A-Levels and work hard

To apply for a place in medicine or nursing, you’ll need to make sure you study for the right qualifications. While different universities have their own criteria, both nursing and medicine degrees typically ask for science at A-Level in their entry requirements. If you’re already part-way through your studies and haven’t chosen the right qualifications, you could apply for a foundation year, which would then allow you to begin the relevant degree.

  • Get some work experience

As part of your application, you will need to show evidence of your interest and enthusiasm for your chosen degree. One way of doing this is through work experience. It’s also a requirement of your application.

There are different ways of getting medical work experience, including reaching out to those in the industry or volunteering for local healthcare practices, charities and organisations. Your school or college can also help you secure work experience.

Soak up the experience as much as possible and don’t be afraid to ask questions. Think about what you’ve learned and the things you’ve enjoyed most about your time — this could all be useful when it comes to your interviews further down the line.

  • Study hard for your UCAT/BMAT

To secure a place on a university course for medicine, you’ll also need to take a UCAT (University Clinical Aptitude Test) and/or a BMAT (BioMedical Admissions Test). These tests are there to test knowledge, aptitude and other skills to assess if you’d be a suitable candidate for medicine. They are very competitive, and you’ll need a good score to go with your application. The good news is that there are some excellent UCAT resources to help you study for your tests. Practice as much as possible, and remember that there are fees to take the test.

  • Practice, practice, practice for your interview

Your interview, alongside your personal statement, is your chance to show universities what you’ve got. For medicine, there are three different types of interviews depending on the institution: Traditional, Oxbridge and MMI. You should make sure you’re familiar with the format for your interview. Study your personal statement and keep on top of current news, as you could be asked your opinion on different health topics.

Practice for your interview as much as possible. There are plenty of resources and example questions that could help you feel more confident answering questions.

There’s a lot to consider when applying for a nursing or medicine degree. While it’s a competitive field, you can boost your chances by preparing as much as you can and working hard. It’s a fantastic industry to be a part of and an area where you can really make a difference in people’s lives.