Your browser is no longer supported

For the best possible experience using our website we recommend you upgrade to a newer version or another browser.

Your browser appears to have cookies disabled. For the best experience of this website, please enable cookies in your browser

We'll assume we have your consent to use cookies, for example so you won't need to log in each time you visit our site.
Learn more

'Clearing up poo will not help me learn' - student nurses reject basic care


Student nurses are rejecting essential elements of bedside care because they feel it is not a worthwhile learning experience, research published by Nursing Times has found.

The research found widespread conflict between student nurses and qualified staff over the tasks students should do on placement.

Tasks normally carried out by HCAs, such as making tea, washing patients and cleaning, were not seen as valuable learning opportunities for student nurses keen to gain experience with more technical roles like administering drugs.

As a result, many senior nurses feel that students are qualifying with significant gaps in their basic skills. One interview participant said: “I sometimes feel in despair that by the time students have qualified, they still haven’t gained some of the practicalities and common sense - things like time management, basic assessment skills - that we would have been doing on our first round.”

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 be more focused to learn, and I don’t do those sorts of things now.”

Click here to read the research in full


Are student nurses wrong to reject basic bedside care while on placement?

View poll results

Readers' comments (158)

  • As a mature student who has run several of my own companies, I am experienced in the basics already - and i know their importance. I have no problem doing them but I haven't taken a massive pay cut to become a tea lady - I'm here to learn! Some of my placements have provided amazing mentors who literally talk me through their job as they do it and give me the opprtunity to practice - including the menial tasks. Others have just told me to stand there while they ignore me and any questions I have. If I speak up I am now a problem student who can't fit in. If I use my initiative to join in even with cleaning tasks I am told I shouldn't be touching anything - er, what can you do? Just bite your lip, feel fustrated and wonder why you even bothered... oh, and pray that your next placement will be different

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • I haven't got the fear, i have 'the anger' that as a new starter, my course gave me less knowledge than my GCSE's.

    Like it or not the nursing course in its current form is responsible for nurses having to learn their job after they qualify.

    And as for F1's, they don't have to put up with no teaching or teaching cancelled to staff other wards, being denied courses.
    They are well looked after compared to us.

    and as those who prattle on about what is the celing of learning and say 'you don't need to know this or that'

    you are the very people that can't ever explain anything in depth to students, thus force them to have a disjointed clinical experience.
    Yes we do need to know a similar volume of knowledge as the doctors, for the very fact that we do an entirely different job for them.

    My patients don't need to be an advocate, they are not all victims who need me to defend my corner (again mummy bear strikes again)

    I am not thre to be a sounding board for comlpaining or a shoulder to lean on.
    my job is to give the drugs, get them moving, dress their wounds and move them along.
    if the rest of you did that instead of pretending you'are so kind of psychologist or counsellor our patients might not prioritize their vague emotins over the more important life or death stuff.

    hand holding and nice talks have no bearing when you work in an acute setting. it is up to indivuals to make the best of the situation not rely on the 4-6 weeks they spend with me to determine whether they can be bothered or not to get better.

    The support you thin kyou're giving has no outcome on their physical outcome. if you want to fantasize that you are having a genuine outcome then fine, just don't asume you are doing the rright thing!
    I am.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • I'm a student nurse and I think I can speak for all of my colleagues. Personal care was the principle of our first placement, we all understand it's importance and that it's fundamental to being a nurse. I would query the research that has been carried out and reiterate that I will never be too posh to wash or wipe bums etc........ Maybe some of the people that commented, should of considered the quality of the research. Thought if it was the best evidence available to them before stating that they were disgusted with student nurses!!!

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • This is ridiculous! If youve signed up for the training and want to be a nurse then you know what the job entails! Not wanting to do the basics is just showing that you dont want to look after your patients properly. On my first placement I had never even set foot on a ward...I had no choice but to learn the basics and its got me to where I am now...a newly qualified staff nurse in a new job that I love and being able to get on with my transition from student to staff nurse which is made easier by knowing the basics of care!

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • It is ridiculous why student Nurses think basic nursing care should not be their thing rather, the HCA. When i trained 24 years ago, nursing care was all about looking after the patient from A to Z, from mouth wash to making sure the ward is tidied,, giving and emptying commode or bedpan etc. I used to carry the bed pan with style. Nursing is the work of caring for the sick or injured or infirm as they are very very helpless at this time. What kind of observation or documentation are you going to write down at the end of the shift if the bowel is not monitored for any changes in habit. THIS IS NURSING!!!!

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Nursing is more then basic care. that is why they want to know more.

    The rules of basic care are simple and finite.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • I am not a nurse, but I am the father of 3 now grown up children. When they were babies, I had to change their nappies and give them their baths and make sure they were fresh and clean.

    I can understand the reticence some female nurses might have when called upon to wash the shitty bottoms of their patients, but imagine the outcry if a surgeon refused to carry out an operation on a male patient's anus because it would mean touching the man's bottom and who might defecate all over the surgeon's hands.

    A dear neighbour of mine died recently of Parkinson's disease at the age of 86. I visited him the week before he died in hospital. He'd lost control of his bodily functions and while I was there he had involuntarily defecated. The smell was awful I can tell you, but somehow I did not mind. I knew he was about to die. Later on, his nurse cleaned him up. I got the impression that he had fallen in love with her, and that in her presence he no longer felt afraid.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Nursing is more then basic care. that is why they want to know more.

    The rules of basic care are simple and finite.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • What I cannot understand is why student nurses have to work 12 hours or night shifts what is the learning outcome?

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • To posh TO WASH?
    Disgracefull attitude to the future of Nursing and all current good Nurses! Its called > Basic Nursing Skill/Care! An insult to all Nurses that do thier work tirelessly through commitment and professionalism year after year! New Nurses to posh to wash? Shameful for the NHS and the new Nurses. Sad that basic care is clearly not regarded as a NURSING SKILL

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

Show 102050results per page

Have your say

You must sign in to make a comment

Please remember that the submission of any material is governed by our Terms and Conditions and by submitting material you confirm your agreement to these Terms and Conditions. Links may be included in your comments but HTML is not permitted.