The debate over what student nurses should and should not do on clinical placements has given Beyond the Bedpan plenty to think about
Student nurses of yesteryear were made of sterner stuff. The would rise at 3am and walk 18 miles to their clinical placements, over hot coals and under heavy fire from the Germans.
Once there they would roll up their sleeves and make tea for everyone, before getting down on their nobbled knees to scrub blood and excrement from the floors with their own toothbrushes.
All this would be done with a smile and a cheerful, giving nature that channelled the spirit of Florence Nightingale.
Nowadays, they get up at 11am from a drunken stupor and, on the rare occasions that they can be bothered to go to work, demand a lift from their long-suffering parents and show up in hotpants and leather boots.
Change a bedpan? Make tea? Pull the other one, they scoff, before happy-slapping the nearest HCA and taking over the responsibilities of the senior nurse consultant.
That’s one way of looking at the debate currently threatening to crash nursingtimes.net, and possibly the whole internet, with its sheer volume of traffic.
Another way of looking at it is that these poor, long-suffering lambs of the nursing profession are treated as cut-price HCAs by their unscrupulous superiors, who ignore their learning requirements in favour of banishing them to the cleaning cupboards.
So who is really getting the short end of the stick here? The truth, boringly, lies somewhere in between.
Student nurse placements are supernumerary roles, meaning that they are explicitly there to learn, and not to be traditional members of the hospital workforce.
They arrive on placements with clear instructions from their universities about precisely what they should be learning. If they are not being given the opportunity to meet these objectives, it is only right that they speak up.
But it can go too far. In the research that started this whole debate, one student was reported to have told a staff nurse: “I keep being asked to do things which won’t help me learn - clear up poo, mop up blood, give patients tea and toast. I realised that I needed to more focused to learn, and I don’t do those sorts of things now.”
But cleaning up poo, making tea and providing “basic care” for their patients is and always will be a fundamental part of nursing. The fear is that if these skills are neglected, students will go on to become the type of “hands off” nurses the profession dreads.
A student reader is unequivocal in her riposte: “What a load of hogwash. I’m a third year student and I have no problem with performing fundamental care on patients and I understand its importance. What I do not like as a student is being constantly used as an HCA - there are other things to learn along with fundamental care. Please stop attacking us students.”
Good point, well made.
Do students do enough 'basic care' on placements?