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Exclusive: student opinion divided over need to work as HCA


Student nurses are divided on whether they should be required to undertake work as a healthcare assistant for up to a year before starting their degrees.

The controversial plan was one of the key announcements made by the government last month in its initial response to the Mid Staffordshire Foundation Trust Public Inquiry report. The idea had drawn largely unfavourable responses from nurse commentators and unions. 

However, our survey of over 1,400 nursing students found that 42% “agreed” or “strongly agreed” that it was a good idea, while 42% also “disagreed” or “strongly disagreed”, saying it was a bad idea. The remaining 16% described themselves as “neutral”.

When asked whether having to work as an HCA first would have affected their decision to study nursing, 55% said it would not have made a difference and they would have still started their course.

26% said “they might have thought twice” and 19% said they would not have opted not to start their course.   

However, 49% of survey respondents said they believed the government was “blaming” student nurses for the NHS system’s failings by suggesting they should work as an HCA as a year before starting courses.

As previously revealed by Nursing Times, Health Education England hopes to have pilot schemes in place by autumn.

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Readers' comments (5)

  • Many student nurses work as HCAs before or during their studies anyway, and do often learn some valuable lessons, but at the end of the day the training is to become a NURSE, not a HCA. The sheer notion of FORCING people to work a year as a HCA is beyond ridiculous.

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  • I always think that more hands on training is important. But as mentioned above, many student nurses already have worked or do bank work while training.
    This aside, if you look into individual cases, its the nurses who have been in the job a long time that tend to be bought into negative light, not the newly qualified.
    If thier arnt enough paid jobs for every individual who wants to do thier nurse training, they may say it has to be unpaid, but unpaid, how can people survive?

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  • It appears that you'd only have to work as an HCA beforehand if you are seeking funding for your tuition fees from the NHS - implying that, if you funded the course yourself, you wouldn't have to undertake this work.

    Just seems like a way to get students to pay for the course, which doesn't sit right with me.

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  • Anonymous | 19-Apr-2013 11:18 pm

    sorry in a rush, but if it is only a question of funding and not for the benefits of the students and their learning experience and for the benefits of patients arguments in favour for this scheme do not appear justified.

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  • ah the is nothing like some good basic graffting before you spend most of your time sitting on your butts then your hca that you will be over in three years time can check for pressure care as we can't neglect?????

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