Record numbers of people in the UK have applied to study nursing

(Credit: Unsplash)

This article is brought to you thanks to the collaboration of The European Sting with the World Economic Forum.

Author: Sean Fleming, Senior Writer, Formative Content

  • More than 60,000 people in the UK have applied to study nursing.
  • The US needs an additional 176,000 new nurses per year.
  • Nurses all over the world remain poorly paid in comparison with many other occupations.

Applications to join the nursing profession in the UK are soaring. In the past year, the number of people applying to study to become a nurse has risen by almost a third to more than 60,000. There has also been increased interest in related disciplines, including dentistry and medicine.

By comparison, interest in some more traditional academic subjects like history, philosophy and classics is waning.

Potential explanations for this increase in interest are twofold. In part, it might be that students are seeking out careers they think could offer more job security in the future. With digital technology and automation set to continue to disrupt many workplaces, a more predictable career may have a certain appeal. The UK’s National Health Service (NHS) could be seen by some as a “safer” bet, along with the ongoing need for dentists, doctors and nurses adding to the sense of stability.

Interest in nursing

But another reason appears to be an increased recognition of the work of the medical professions due to the pandemic. That’s the view of Ruth May, chief nursing officer for NHS England. “This surge in interest from people of all ages wanting to study nursing is incredible and is great news for the public and the health service,” she said.

“During COVID-19 the level of interest in working for the NHS has trumped lots of other career options, and that speaks volumes about how people recognise our profession, particularly following our most challenging year.”

Interest in nursing has fired the imaginations of a diverse range of age groups, too, according to figures from the UK body that oversees university applications, UCAS.

For 2021, there was a record number of applications from school-leavers aged 18 – 16,560 applicants, up 27% on 2020’s figure. The number of applications from mature students – those aged 35+ – rose by 39% to 10,770. It’s the first time more than 10,000 people from that age bracket have applied to study nursing.

Burnout and moral distress

In the US, however, the picture is a little different. Over the coming decade, the country is expected to need an additional 175,900 new registered nurses every year.

And according to Theresa Brown – an author and nurse writing in The New York Times about the pressures being felt on the nursing front line – there is some doubt as to whether those roles could be filled.

“The shortage was predicted even before the coronavirus pandemic,” she writes. “Aging baby boomers create a larger population of patients in need of care, and a large number of nurses over 50 will retire soon. Nursing schools don’t have enough faculty to expand the nursing workforce.”

A survey of US nurses undertaken by the medical-tech company NurseGrid found that “22% of respondents plan to leave bedside care – or the profession itself – in 2021.” That’s perhaps not surprising, given another US study, ‘Self-care strategies in response to nurses’ moral injury during COVID-19 pandemic’, which says: “Many nurses and healthcare professionals are likely to experience post-traumatic stress as a consequence of serving during the COVID-19 crisis.”

Overworked and under-resourced, nurses have often found themselves with feelings of burnout and fatigue.

“People go to the hospital because they need the care of nurses. Without them, there is no care. But nurses are not an infinitely elastic resource; they’re people, many of whom are exhausted, traumatized, barely holding themselves together. It’s time to really see and care for them,” Theresa Brown writes.

It’s a sentiment borne out by the self care strategies report, which found that: “Most nurses in the US and other wealthy countries have little experience practicing medicine in a compromised, overwhelming situation like the one COVID-19 has created.” Pushed to the point of feeling they cannot offer the care they have been trained to give, many nurses are struggling emotionally and psychologically.

Growing global inequalities

Such experiences dominate the lives of nurses in many parts of the world where resources, equipment and personnel are all in short supply. In a report called ‘The Inequality Virus’, the global charity Oxfam looks at how the pandemic has ushered in an era of increased inequalities in almost every country.

Nurses are a key focus area of the report. In its foreword, Fikile Dikolomela-Lengene, Deputy President of South Africa’s Young Nurses Trade Union, writes: “As health and other essential workers, we have something else in common: we are overworked, underpaid, undervalued and often not protected, even in the midst of a deadly pandemic.

“We are overwhelmingly women, Black, and People of Colour. Many of us are migrants, people from ethnic minorities or from other groups that are pushed to the margins of society, and yet expected to keep our systems standing.”

a diagram explaining that a top paid asset manager earns 1,400 times more than a newly qualified nurse
Do we really value caregivers? Image: Oxfam

The report goes on to call for a recalibration of the financial recompense and says salaries given to nurses ought to reflect the value the profession offers society. Oxfam cites a report from the European Banking Authority which compared the pay of asset managers and nurses in the UK. The $43.2 million paid to the former was 1,400 times greater than that of a newly qualified nurse.

the sting Milestones

Featured Stings

Can we feed everyone without unleashing disaster? Read on

These campaigners want to give a quarter of the UK back to nature

How to build a more resilient and inclusive global system

Stopping antimicrobial resistance would cost just USD 2 per person a year

Europe should make voice ‘more heard’ in today’s ‘dangerous world,’ says UN chief

The revenge of the fallen

Syrian crisis is ‘clearest example’ of foreign investment in terrorism, Deputy Prime Minister says at UN

This Syrian national has been trapped at Kuala Lumpur airport for 3 months

European Commission calls on national political parties to join efforts to ensure free and fair elections in Europe

Back to the Basics: Primary Healthcare

Learning lessons from across Europe – the hidden costs of COVID-19 on lung cancer

Eliminating gender based bias in medicine: the role of medical students

MEPs propose more transparent legislative drafting and use of allowances

Out with the old: Young People transforming Humanitarian Action

Parliament adopts deal to improve quality of tap water and reduce plastic litter

Mergers: Commission clears acquisition of Eaton Hydraulics by Danfoss, subject to conditions

5 ways to #BeatAirPollution

Security spillovers from Trump’s trade wars: China, Germany prepare for global disorder

Iceland’s slowdown underlines the need to fix structural issues

Wirecard: MEPs call for new audit rules, protection for whistle-blowers and EU supervision

Why salaries could finally be on the way up

Estonia: use robust growth to improve income equality and well-being

More funds needed to counter ‘persistent and multi-faceted humanitarian problems’ in Ethiopia

EU prolongs economic sanctions on Russia by six months

New energy security framework will help meet growing needs in East Africa, sustainably – UN economic wing

Postal workers in France are helping elderly people fight loneliness

We are witnessing a revolution in genomics – and it’s only just begun

Why transparency in drug pricing is more complicated than it seems

COP21 Breaking News_04 December: Launch of CREWS, climate risk & early warning systems

Merkel: Nationalism and egoism must never have a chance again in Europe

More funding needed to combat locust swarms ‘unprecedented in modern times’

Global warming: our responsibility

Beware the fragility of the global economy

Commission provides 20 cities with funding for innovative security, digital, environmental and inclusion projects

WHO and UNICEF in campaign to protect 1.6 million in Sudan from cholera

Falling inflation urges ECB to introduce growth measures today

Why are the financial markets shivering again?

‘Great Pacific Garbage Patch’ clean-up project launches trial run: UN Environment

EU labour mobility: Inconvenient truths for everybody

European Parliament and Eurovision sign partnership for European Elections

EU attempts to make new deal with Turkey as relations deteriorate

Technophobe or technophile? We need more conversation about digital transformation

‘Emulate his example’ urges UN chief as world celebrates Nelson Mandela: a ‘global advocate for dignity and equality’

MWC 2016 LIVE: Qualcomm looks to pick up Hamilton’s winning ways

EP and EU ministers agree on Erasmus+ programme for 2021-2027

My experience living with depression and schizophrenia in Thailand

Building cybersecurity capacity through benchmarking: the Global Cybersecurity Index

3 ways to rebuild trust in how we regulate technology

First calls under Horizon Europe to be launched by the European Research Council

Philanthropy must face a reckoning on race in 2021

New UN finance panel to push Global Goals forward

Conditions deteriorating alarmingly in Yemen, warns senior UN official

Commission reinforces tools to ensure Europe’s interests in international trade

EU mobilises emergency assistance for Croatia in the aftermath of devastating earthquake

Commission concludes that an Excessive Deficit Procedure is no longer warranted for Italy at this stage

Better ID card security to curb document fraud

Can we automate our way out of the savings crisis?

5 lessons for the future of universities

Things are bad and getting worse for South Africa. Or are they?

This is why AI has a gender problem

Commission paralysed before the banking leviathan

The world must pull together to stem the urgent crisis in our ocean

Alice in Colombia

The recipe for creativity involves a lot of ideas, and a short break

More Stings?


Speak your Mind Here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s