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Despite fears of job cuts, nursing attracts many students

I don’t like it when my daughter goes back to school. I pretend that I’m excited about her new year group and the thrill of having a new teacher who, by the way, has already been labelled as “strict”, seemingly because she raised her voice when telling one of the boys not to glue his ear to the desk.

But, in truth, I can’t stand her first day back, in part because it means we have less time to mess about together but also because it means summer is pretty much over.

However, once I get past the sulking and put away the flip flops, I remember that actually this is one of my favourite times of year. In part because September is a time when lots of people start something new.

In the next few weeks thousands of new students are going to begin training to be nurses. Before they get here we know something about them already. Some will be brilliant. Some will not last a year. One or two will be easily confused and should be on media studies courses. A few will think they know everything already. One will keep crying.

‘Incoming student nurses would be forgiven for switching to a job that might be a bit less fraught - like a Samurai warrior or fighter pilot’

A fair number will have always wanted to nurse even though they did other things first, including retail, wholesale, telesales and being a circus performer. Some will be very young and leaving home for the first time. Some will be older and anxious about writing essays. Many will be frightened but brave. Some will be dyslexic. More than 12 will be worried about dealing with poo.

And what are they coming to? Well, on the bright side I was working with a group of students last week who - with one or two exceptions - enthused about brilliant mentors and wonderful learning opportunities. They talked about coming into their third year feeling inadequate but committed, and about the difference that working with good nurses can make to what they know and how they feel about what they do.

They talked about the talent they wanted to emulate, and that if they encountered someone who was not very good at their job they would vow never to nurse like that. They were at once enthusiastic and considered, hopeful and appreciative.

This is admirable given the political landscape they are training in. Various suggestions of cuts in the nursing workforce - something we have long expected - have ranged from 6,500 to 80,000. There is pressure on beds, and the public image of nursing is being shaped by tales of carelessness and neglect. Let’s face it, it would be reasonable to feel a little unease if you were just about to start your nurse training. You could even be forgiven for switching to a job that might be
a bit less fraught - like a Samurai warrior or fighter pilot.

But most of the incoming students this year will lend themselves to the endeavour with the same mix of concentrated enthusiasm and nervousness that we brought when we started. They may impress or annoy you depending on your day and their haircut, and they may be coming into a job with less job security than ever before. But still they come. You can’t help but admire that, can you?

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