So I’m Kate and I’m going to be studying to become a midwife at the University of Hull, beginning on the 4th Feb 2019 (which is getting very close now but doesn’t really feel like it’s happening at the moment). From my bio you may have seen that I’m already a registered nurse and will therefore be studying the Post Graduate Diploma in Midwifery. You may have heard this referred to as the “short course” or “top-up” or even “conversion”, but it’s basically an 18 month course designed for those who are already adult nurses with an NMC registration, who want to become midwives.
I always wanted to be a midwife, but I also always wanted to be in the Army (couldn’t have chosen 2 more different career paths if I’d tried) and I remember being really torn when I was 17, when you’re at that awful age where you have to choose what you want to do for the rest of your life. I joined the reserves as soon as I was able to and loved it, at the same time attending an interview to be a midwife where I was told that I should probably consider becoming a nurse first as midwifery was ‘very competitive and hard to get into, sorry”. This pretty much made my mind up for me and, coupled with the fact I desperately didn’t want to look back when I was 80 when it was too late and regret never having joined the military, and as I thought I would still like to be a midwife one day, I applied to become a nurse in the British Army.
Life as a nurse in the British Army
I loved it. And I was really good at it. I completely excelled, both as a nurse and as a soldier. I thrived off the challenges and really found myself. On basic training I won the coveted ‘best recruit’ award and became a “marksman”. At the end of Phase 2 training I won the ‘best student nurse’ award. I won 2 Commanding Officer’s awards, excelled at university getting straight As and P*s for all of my placements and eventually gaining a First Class Honours degree. I was ranked the top soldier amongst my peers consistently and was also selected to attend Army Officer selection. Clinically, I had amazing opportunities too, getting placed at Headley Court nursing injured soldiers, in toxicology with alcohol and drug abusers, with prison nurses, in A&E, with paramedics, on trauma wards, with health visitors, with paediatric nurses. There were opportunities to go abroad and to specialise and I made friends – no sisters, that I know I will have for the rest of my life. I wanted the military to really be my career and I wanted to see where it would take me.
Disaster. 2 months after qualifying as a nurse, and 4 years after joining the military, I severely injure my knee during a weekly ‘military training day’. A further year later, a year full of tests and opinions and crutches and pain killers and surgery and physio and a rapid decline in my mental health, and that was it. The end of my military career, just as it was getting going. And with it, the end of me running, hiking or playing sports ever again. Initially, obviously, gutted. But this did offer me a new opportunity – which, in some dark moments, was how I chose to look at it, was how I had to look at it. I couldn’t let this be the end of me having challenges and fulfilment and excelling. I’d done the military bit, I’d smashed it and I had no regrets (other than ever so slightly twisting my knee 2 inches further right than I should have). Now onto pastures new.
Getting into midwifery
I’d heard rumours of this mysterious course that you could do if you were already a nurse, but also rumours they were getting rid of it? A couple of heavy googling sessions later and I’d found it. Only at Hull, Southampton and Birmingham admittedly but they still DID do it. (They probably do do it at other unis too but this is all I could find). And Hull wasn’t too far from Lincoln, kind of, distance is relative I suppose. And so, I set about finding out some more information and if I was eligible to apply. I really worried that because I’d only been qualified for a year that this would set me back, that I’d have to wait nearly a year until next September for the next intake, that I wouldn’t be able to afford it, how would I fit in work, oh god UCAS. Round and round my little anxious head went. A quick phone call later to the lovely admissions team and to my absolute delight, and well I couldn’t quite bloody believe it, they were accepting applications now, I could print off the paperwork (no UCAS yay), the intake was in February, the course is fully funded AND you get paid the equivalent of a Band 5 nurse’s wage for the duration of the course, oh which by the way is tax exempt. I’m sorry, what?
(I don’t know if they all offer funding and a wage while you study at every uni so do check this out if you’re thinking of applying, don’t just take my word for it)
The application was pretty straightforward and I’d been given shining references from my old military bosses so I felt I was already quite a big chunk of the way there. But not the biggest chunk. Not the personal statement chunk. I remembered personal statements. I did not like personal statements. I knew it was REALLY important to get this right. This is your one chance to make an impression, to sell yourself and to get your foot in the door. I’d been told that the course was oversubscribed at the interview stage and I knew this was the difference between getting one and frankly, having to be a nurse forever, which I was not enjoying. In the end, and after an awful lot of work, I was really really pleased with my personal statement. I stuck to the following top tips…
- Make a plan (and stick to it) – I made a list of the things that I thought were important to include and ticked them off as I did them
- TRY to stick to the word count – this is something that I have always really struggled with (as you can probably tell I’m a massive waffler). I don’t know how to give good advice on this, other than, just try to be concise. If you want to say something, say it. Don’t beat about the bush
- Have an intro which draws the reader in, makes them want to read more and introduces why you want to be a midwife
- The middle – you want to illustrate why you would be a good midwife. Do this by
- Be confident. Don’t say things like “I think I am a good leader” say “I am a good leader” – you are a good leader, you got this
- Try and show that you’ve done some wider reading and that you have knowledge of current issues faced by midwives. For example:
- Increased demand on midwives – more and more births and less and less resources and funding
- Shortage of midwives – exacerbated by the loss of university bursaries and the increase in fees
- Increasingly complex pregnancies with more women being older, having existing health conditions etc
- For those applying for the PGDip course, demonstrate why you want to move away from nursing
- Add a little conclusion at the end, where you wrap it all up. I also added a little “thank you for taking the time to read my personal statement”
- Get people to read it for you. Preferably a midwife if you know one.
There are loads of resources out there, especially online, offering support and advice for personal statements, but these tend to be more general as opposed to specific to midwifery so, unfortunately, there is no quick and easy way to write it well. Take your time with it, do drafts, stick to the top tips!