I couldn’t believe my eyes when I checked my UCAS account, where applications for my five chosen universities were being processed. I started my application late. As in six months after application deadlines closed. So I knew that getting my first choice, or even second choice, or any of them, wasn’t going to be likely.
I was ok with that. I was.
The oldest nursing school, Florence Nightingale’s own
I’d had my interviews, I’d passed the literacy and numeracy entrance exams. I’d done the tours, I’d spent hours researching each course, each trust area I could be placed, and I’d narrowed it down to two choices. One was local to me. The other was the prestigious Florence Nightingale Faculty of Nursing and Midwifery, located in King’s College London (KCL), a member of the Russell Group – the top twenty universities in the entire world.
The faculty is world’s first nursing school and rated number one in the world for nursing in 2016. Over 156 years of nursing practice and research was at my fingertips.
So when I checked UCAS and received a new notification from one of the five unis, I felt that rush of nausea sweep my stomach. It didn’t say anything other than my application at KCL had been updated. This could mean a ‘thanks but no’ or a ‘ok sport, we’ll let you in.’
I sat there, kitten on lap, and my hand hovered over my laptop’s trackpad. “It’s ok,” I muttered to myself. “We knew it was a slim chance, so if it’s a no, that’s ok.”
Taking a deep breath, I clicked open the notification, and there it was. My application was successful and I held an unconditional offer to start nursing in September 2016.
But rather than be excited and firm it up instantly, there was an issue.
So when I see there’s another strike planned next week, for what I don’t care to know, I can’t help but feel sorry for all London.
1.7 billion passengers, one nurse
I’ve commuted in and around London for over a decade. I’ve struggled through tube strikes and delays. I’ve been on trains that have struck passengers. I’ve been on trains that are crammed so tightly I’ve struggled to breathe, and others where it’s just been me and the driver.
The thought of that being the basis of my life until 2019 filled me with dread. And no wonder, right? A new infographic showing the state of TFL reported that commuters on the central line alone (including me) endured 249,473 minutes, or 4,158 hours, or 173 days, or 24 weeks, of delays from January to April 2016. Some purely down to overcrowding. That’s one line. One.
I was left with a massive conundrum. Do I sacrifice my personal life for three years, hoping I’m placed in a trust near to where I live and not miles away, for an incredible education? Or do I put my trust in a university closer to home to deliver the same quality of education in the hopes I still have some sanity at the end of my course?
It was a really tough decision to make.
My future, and my decision
When I tell people I turned down a place at King’s, they look shocked. Appalled. But when I explain why, they understand. David can work from home on those nightmarish days. But I can’t. No nurse can.
David and I deliberated on the decision for a few weeks. How much was it going to cost? How much time was it going to take? What happens if trains are delayed? What happens if my placement is miles away and I can’t even get a train due to the times I’ll need to work? What about night shifts, bank holidays? These were the biggest issues I had. Note: all about travel.
It was never going to work. So I enjoy those precious few minutes extra in bed, I turn off all my travel alerts, I forget that London exists on my placement days.
Who knows where we’ll end up in 2019. Crossrail will be brand new and shiny, will that make it easier for students to travel around London? Maybe. Will we be able to afford it? Probably not. We’ll see, I guess.
We all make decisions that seem right at the time, right for us and others. To any new nursing students: the course is hard. Everything about it, from placements to exams, will push you and test your very being. Don’t let travel be another stress if it doesn’t have to be.