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Looking after our student nurses

In response to a recent news story that more than 25% of student nurses in the UK do not finish their course at a cost of more than £98m a year, this anonymous blogger has her say ...

I think courses are too intense and universities schedule exams over placement times when there is little or no time to study because of acute tiredness after a long shift with a pitiful 20-minute break. Generally, there is little support, and if a student is knackered and needs to take a day off, they have to pay it back during the short holidays.

I have heard people complaining of not being welcomed on placement by other members of staff, with some bullying going on reported by many students. Don't bullies realize that they are often the reason why sickness days are taken and, in more drastic cases, students drop out?

Stronger anti-bullying policies should be in place and victims should be able to speak out, the bully disciplined and persistent bullies dismissed as they cause a lot of damage. I think that many professions such as nursing and teaching are very stressful; the pay is pitiful and it is sad that these essential professionals are priced out of the housing market. There are many things that would improve students completing college courses and nurse retention in employment.

  • Long days should be banned unless the member of staff chooses this and has been assessed as capable of completing such a long shift without placing the patients in jeopardy. How can a nurse concentrate and do their job properly on a 12-hour shift?
  • Pay should be in line with other professions. The expertise of a nurse far outweighs that of a teacher and even lawyer; teachers are paid better, let alone lawyers (I will even go on to say that a nurse works harder than a doctor since she is with patients all the time; moreover the responsibility is great). This should be valued and the pay should be generous; why should doctors earn four times more?
  • Those working night shifts should be substantially paid for the unsociable hours and impact on family and social lives.
  • Regular breaks should be in order and not the occasional break. Breaks are essential to renew staff and help them avoid mistakes.

Nursing needs to be made into an attractive profession that is valued by society, and the general public need to review their obsession with so-called "professionals" who pick up enormous wages for doing nothing or non-essential work eg, bankers, hedge fund managers, top lawyers, footballers and singers in the name of "entertainment".

Stop pampering these stars and celebrities and give nurses the red carpet treatment! It is sad to acknowledge that even a "Big Brother" contestant has more status and as a result opens doors to opulent lifestyles. 

Student nurses should receive more support from universities so that their voices can be heard and reasonable adjustments should be put in place when the student is not coping. It is important to run courses that are demanding but humane.

I know a lady who has had to tell her boyfriend and friends that for the duration of her course, she will be unable to see them, in order to keep up with the demands of her studies. Her boyfriend has now abandoned her and the resulting stress is impacting on her studies. I have also heard of grave mistakes, such a nurse injecting a patient with the wrong medication.

If we cared more for nurses, these incidents would be almost obsolete. I believe in caring for the employee to increase "production". What about the case of a student being told to perform an IV injection when it is against the course rules? Nurses need to complete an extra course upon registration to prove proficiency in IV injecting.

I have heard of mentors who don't speak proper English. Shouldn't learning an advanced level of English be a prerequisite to working on the wards, let alone being a mentor? Many professions expect the student to work in placements as well as study an enormous amount of hours per week to keep up with the course. No exams should be scheduled during placement and a student who may need to work a day a week to make up for the appalling bursary should be allowed to do so without reproach, as financial problems can cause a lot of stress.

How about the four-day week placement? That may ease the pressure somewhat. Raise the amount of bursary money and, if necessary make the courses longer, with reasonably frequent week-long breaks to recharge batteries, study and catch up on owed clinical hours.

After all, you may ask yourself, how would you like to be taken care of by a tired and stressed out nurse, after having a long operation and as a consequence you may be feeling particularly vulnerable? The nurse may even be rude and make you uncomfortable and as a consequence you will be wary of seeking her vital help.

Society needs to honour those individuals who really contribute to the community. As a former teacher, I was very sad to hear, upon asking my class what they would like to do as adults, that the responses were pop singers and footballers. I wonder who is going to bake the bread ...? 

I know at least six people who are talking about dropping out on my particular course; although it has occurred to me that I may do the same. Should it happen, I can assure you that it would be a great shame, as I am passionate about caring for others and I would make a great nurse.

Have your say at the Nursing in Practice Forum now!

Your comments (terms and conditions apply):

"I trained in the 'old' hospital system in 1980 - and haven't looked back since. I have never once regretted choosing that training over the University place I was offered. There were great and not so great courses in hospitals AND in Universities, so don't belittle the SRN training - we could learn a lot from it today. And by the way, I'm not and never have been a 'handmaiden', that idiosyncracy never had anything to do with SRN training, it's still alive and well today" - Name and address supplied

"I am amazed at the comments offered by Ms Wyatt. Nurses have chosen their profession and are hard-working and committed individuals and frankly the comment about a lack of brain power, skill and commitment are out of touch and delusional. As for national service, the army is a proud and professional body of committed individuals. To put individuals into a unit against their will and because they have fallen short of what society expects is not only short sighted but dangerous for the brave men and women who defend this country to the very best of their ability. Perhaps Ms Wyatt you should take a step out into the real world and realise the contribution which is made by committed professionals who are not all GPs" - Practice Nurse, Wales

"I am starting nursing in London soon and I have quite frankly been worried about how I am going to finance myself. I know that teachers training on the GTP course get £14,000 in the North East and they spend 60 hours in university and the rest of the time at school. Since student nurses do so many placements (on the job training), why can they not be entitled to the same respect of a trainee teacher. Considering the rent one has to pay in London, I would have thought at least £10,000/pa to be more appropriate. And yes, Kate Wyatt, I will just get on with it because I have chosen it as my profession but there is injustice in the way the government funds student nurses. As for the bullying, I was on the GTP programme for teaching and suffered the nightmare of a bullying mentor with no back up whatsoever from the university. It doesn't matter what profession you are in because there will always be bullies. You just have to hold your own and have the strength of character to endure it. I don't think that doctors should be paid the same or less than nurses but I do think that nurses are not appreciated and are still underrated in today's society. The Project 2000 scheme sounded better in terms of funding nurses but I don't know much about it because it was before my time." - Reena, Newcastle

"I really object to the retort from Kate Wyatt. Your defensive tirade is insulting and if you really are a nurse, you should know better. Those of us with no husband or poorly paid husbands have to try to make the most of our careers, and better ourselves.  Stop trying to belittle all of us and our achievements. If you want to go back to SRN training, then move somewhere else where nursing is not held in such high regard, and you can continue being the hand maiden that you obviously think we should all be and leave us alone. We are not all anti doctor, most of us have much respect and high regard for doctors, stop being so defensive " - A Donne, Cirencester, Glos

"I started my nursing degree 12 years ago, with a good background in healthcare and was sick and tired of hearing the whingeing put downs by qualified staff who were supposed to support us all by being our mentors, such as 'we didn't know as much as they did'  and 'By your stage we were running a ward'  blah blah, but what they didn't realise was that we were mostly doing our training for nothing! Only the few of us who had children had any form of local authority grant and we had to survive on (the then) child benefit and student loans. I had to turn to a charity on two occasions, and had to rely on the intervention of my MP to remain on the course in my third year
because of dire poverty. Thank goodness this has now been elevated a bit for those training now; but whilst the training of student nurses remains with the department of education there will always be high drop out rates due to poverty. When I trained, a study was undertaken which concluded that if we were treated the same as the qualified nurses when they trained - who constantly berated us for something we had no control over - we would have been paid £11,000 per year, which was far far more than the £1,500 per year student loan and child benefits I had to survive on." - BL, Swindon

"Respect has gone from our society to many so-called do-gooders. Society is completely out of control - nurses who think they should get paid the same as doctors are deluded. My husband works unbelievably hard and I must admit it has a detrimental effect on our family and I now wonder why he does
this because the level of disrespect among patients, relatives, nurses, is so destructive. What keeps him going, he has always been totally committed to this life, it's not a job it's a way of life. Nurses do not have that level of commitment, skill or brain power, in my opinion 95% of nurses should be on the shop floor looking after the patients!! If you want the money do the
training, then you can get the same wage. He's trained by the old system - get on with the job son!!! It was tough, these people don't know they're born, the I want more generation of discontent - we won't be here long when Iran arms themselves with nuclear weapons!!! There's a place for everyone, it should be a team effort with the dreaded word respect. Bring back national service for all the drunks, drug takers, thugs etc. Why is everyone afraid of hard work? Everyone wants everything for nothing! We need well trained, practical nurses, why do so many need a degree? Bring back the SRN training and give the power back to the ward sister and the medical staff " - Kate Wyatt, Newcastle

"Nothing new - I trained in 1976 and all sounds familiar" - Name and address supplied