In his first blog as Student Affairs Editor, Anthony discusses how students can advocate for themselves and why the recent bursary campaign is just the beginning of the battle to preserve our health service
The recent suspension of junior doctors’ industrial action should remind us why we cannot rely on others to fight our battles. If we want to save our NHS and the definition of what a nurse is we need to stand up and speak out at every level of our lives. Whether it’s on the wards, in the public eye or with our families, our role as students allow us to be champions for our health service.
”Common sense would suggest that a rag-tag band of student nurses, midwives and AHPs wouldn’t make a difference. But we did”
Last year we proved that with #BursaryOrBust. Common sense would suggest that a rag-tag band of student nurses, midwives and AHPs wouldn’t make a difference. But we did. In London, 20 students with no experience but a lot of faith in the NHS were able to lead protests over 5,000 strong. We spoke at national conferences and held our institutions like the unions, Health Education England, the Department of Health and the Council of Deans to account. It is the young, who still believe in change, that create it within society.
This is something we must all remember now when it looks like the Bursary campaign is ‘over’, the junior doctors have ‘lost’ their fight and the radical deconstruction of our health service will be imposed through sustainability and transformation plans. It is never over.
”If every nurse spoke out and led the charge to stand up for our service, there would be no way to silence us”
Organisations such as the government will always claim victory through the media. The way we combat that is by gathering together and using our voice. There are 20,000 student nurses in the UK. If every one of them spoke out and led the charge to stand up for a service, which provides for patients from the cradle to the grave, there would be no way to silence us.
We can be the change. We can lead this charge. It may feel like there is no hope but a glimpse at our history shows us that this isn’t true. The Movement to create our Health Service was decades in the making. It was won because thousands of everyday Brits, in a time of greater austerity than we currently face, decided that they had enough. They would demand that the horrors they faced through the Second World War would be repaid through the creation of a public service that provided for their children.
”If we want to create real change within our profession - and society at large - we need to build a movement”
Now if our ancestors could do that, before there was evidence to show that the NHS actually saves us money by having a healthy and productive workforce, what can we, as student nurses, achieve?
My Twitter profile image is of me a-top Nelson’s column during an anti-austerity demo and my header is the view I could see. It is a moment that I will remember forever. But it is just that, a moment in time. If we want to create real change within our profession - and society at large - we need to build a movement, one that is filled by thousands of nurses who say that it isn’t ‘safe above 8’; a movement which believes that students should be paid because they are working and it will improve retention; a movement which thinks that nurses and midwives, as the largest healthcare workforce, should have a greater say about decisions that affect us and our patients.
”If the fall is really all that’s left, then it most certainly matters a great deal how we fall”
#BursaryOrBust is not the end. It is the beginning. Whether you were with us last year or are just starting out, I urge you all to get involved and advocate for yourselves. Don’t be scared. There will always be people like me and the other student editors present to support and believe in you.
Jack Goldsmith in his play The Lion in Winter said that when the fall’s all that’s left it matters a great deal how we fall. If this is the end of our health service, if nursing and midwifery will be destroyed as a graduate profession, if the fall is really all that’s left, then it most certainly matters a great deal how we fall.
All of us, as humans, let alone future professionals, have something to say. We should shout it out.
Anthony Johnson is Student Affairs Editor, Nursing Times, studying adult nursing at KCL and is one of the founders of the #BursaryOrBust campaign
Your views on your profession matter
New Student Affairs Editor Alan believes that nurses need to become masters of their own profession and leaders in healthcare.
What do you think?