Nursing and healthcare is seldom out of the national media these days, with positive and negative stories.
Sometimes it can be hard to keep up with it all and, unless you have direct experience of local health services, even harder to judge the quality of care that may be available to you should you need it.
I am pro vice-chancellor and dean of the Faculty of Health and Life Sciences at Oxford Brookes University, where we educate a wide range of health care professionals, many of whom will graduate from university and take jobs in the local health sector as nurses, midwives, physiotherapists, occupational therapists, paramedics and operating department practitioners.
At any one time there are just over 500 student nurses being educated at Brookes.
During their (usually) three-year courses they will spend at least half of that time learning about and giving care directly to patients in local health services – in hospitals, in the community, in clinics and health centres.
They learn their nursing skills directly from experienced, qualified nurses while working in local health services and can’t be registered as qualified nurses unless they are deemed competent by these nurses in practice.
The other half of their education is about acquiring knowledge that underpins their nursing practice – anatomy and physiology, disease processes, psychosocial care, communication and interpersonal skills among other things.
They also spend time practising some of their skills on models before they are allowed access to real patients.
Patient safety is so important – students need to be well prepared before they are expected to assist with providing care and then they should only give care under the supervision of a qualified nurse, becoming more and more independent as they progress through their course.
Nursing is a demanding career physically, emotionally and intellectually but it remains a very popular choice.
Brookes is rated as one of the top 12 nursing courses out of 72 provided across the country and our partnership with the Oxfordshire and Thames Valley NHS is very attractive to aspiring nurses.
Our student nurses range from 18-year-olds to middle-aged career changers, some come with A-Levels, some with vocational qualifications, some with caring experience, some without.
Regardless of their qualifications or prior experience, we and our NHS partners interview all of them to try to make sure they are well suited to the career they wish to pursue.
All of them come with a desire to help others, a thirst for knowledge and a sense of wanting to give something of themselves.
Their education may be shared between the university and the National Health Service these days, but these students are not so very different from when I trained as a nurse almost 40 years ago.
Every year around 170 nurses will graduate from Brookes and three out of four of these remarkable individuals will go on to work in Oxford and Oxfordshire in your local health services. We’re very proud of our ‘Brookes’ nurses – of their knowledge, their skills and the contribution they make to the health and wellbeing of Oxfordshire people as they become a significant part of your health community.