Nursing students are facing serious financial hardship that is forcing them to consider leaving their course because they can no longer afford to keep studying, a Royal College of Nursing (RCN) Scotland survey has found.
Of the 1,046 nursing students who responded to the RCN Scotland survey – covering nursing students in all branches of nursing and all years of study – nearly all (99%) said their finances caused them some level of concern, with three-quarters (74%) saying this was having a high or very high impact on their mental health, and half (48%) on their physical health.
More than half (58%) of respondents said concern over their finances was having a high or very high impact on their academic performance.
Meanwhile, 64% said they had to cut down on food and 49% have had to delay paying bills.
Nine out of 10 respondents were working 11 or more hours a week to supplement their income on top of studies and clinical placements, with more than half (57%) saying the cost of getting to clinical placements was a key reason for considering leaving their course.
RCN Scotland warned that the cost-of-living crisis, lack of opportunities to supplement their income and long delays in being reimbursed for expenses incurred to go on clinical placements were creating ‘a financial black hole’ for nursing students.
The union has called for a boost to the financial package for nursing students in Scotland and wants to see ‘a regular review’ established to ensure support ‘rises in line with the cost of living’.
In addition, RCN Scotland has urged health boards to streamline the process for registering and getting shifts with their local staff bank, ‘so nursing students who need to, can supplement their bursary more effectively’.
Colin Poolman, RCN Scotland director, said: ‘Nursing is a hugely rewarding profession and many nurses go on to enjoy a long and varied career.
‘But the evidence from this survey strongly suggests that there is a danger of strangling nursing careers and aspirations before they’ve properly begun.
‘The Scottish Government must sit up and listen to what nursing students are telling them in this report.’
Mr Poolman said the Scottish Government ‘must improve financial support to show that nursing is truly a valued profession’.
‘With persistently high levels of registered nurse vacancies, we can’t allow more nursing students to drop out,’ he said. ‘We’ve also seen applications to nursing courses drop alarmingly, so that not all places on university courses are being filled.’
The recently created Ministerial Nursing and Midwifery Taskforce in Scotland was a ‘timely opportunity to ensure that current and future nursing students get the money they need to prioritise their education, cope with the rising cost of living and finish their studies successfully without falling into financial hardship’, added Mr Poolman.
The RCN Scotland survey was completed by 1,046 nursing students between 27 January and 16 February 2023.