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

  • 158 Comments

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

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  • 158 Comments

Readers' comments (158)

  • Again, theses tudents aren't saying they don't want to do it. THye are saying there is a ceiling of learning with basic care and it ends in the first year.
    Students are telling us their experiences and we are ignoring them because how they are treated is wrong and how they are taught via the mentoring system is part of the problem.

    Nursing is more than basic care. If it isn't then why are we even calling it basic care??

    We must concede defeat as professionals. the students are right and we are wrong.
    I have been qualified for nearly a year and their experiences are mine.

    As for those who like to fantasize that they enjoy basic care or wish they could do more of it are just full of it. What's stopping you? Why are you delegating it then??

    THis si our professions double-speak as a means to avoid criticism. We can either address it or ignore and blame those individuals who think the bar should be higher.

    Basic nursing is not nursing, nor it is the main point of nursing, nor is it the most important. maintaining haemodynamic stability, administering prescribed therapies and ensuring a timely and safe discharge are our three most crucial roles. The rest, which is being focused on at the expense of the aforementionned, is extra.

    excellence in basic nursing care makes you a good healthcare assistant, not a good registered nurse.

    When will nurses see their value for what it really is??????

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  • I think this is so untrue. I am a Second year nursing student and I understand the very importance of basic care for patients. I actually feel that student nurses have the time to carry out basic care for patients- many times have I provided personal hygiene needs for patients when my mentors are too busy with other things. It upsets me to think some students are not willing to wash patients- if you don't want to clean up poo then you're in the wrong job.

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  • I am an ex-pat Nurse Manager of a very busy Medical-Surgical Unit here in the U.S. and we have similar issues here.
    If I respond to a patient's call light and they need to go on or come off a bed pan, or they have been incontinent, then that is what I take care of. It doesn't matter who responds to the patient's needs, the patients always come first. We should not be arguing about who "cleans up poo". If you are committed to a nursing career then you should be prepared to do whatever the patient needs.
    We too, have students (particularly, it seems the BSN groups) who consider it beneath them to do actual patient care. I have had students leave a patient's room to come and interrupt a conversation I was having with a Nursing Assistant (HCA) in the hallway, to tell him that one of "his" patients needed to be "put on the bedpan".
    I guess the "too posh to wash" syndrome knows no global boundaries and is a symptom of our ailing profession.

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  • As a nurse who trained over 30 years ago it concerns me that colleagues continue to hark back to the 'good old days' and suggest that today's nursing students are in some way inferior. What some seem to convenienly forget is the way that we were used as students and although we did learn excellent hands on care and learned to deal with the practical aspects of nursing this was often at the expense of what could have been good learning opportunities. As a result perhaps we were not as technically skilled as we could have been.

    I do however object to some nurses being described as 'mummy bears'. One can be highly skilled and still be caring and compassionate. It does not have to be one or the other - that is where the art and science of nursing meet and that is a skill in itself to learn.

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  • so interesting reading the comments. I realise v little seems to have changed since I trained some 12 years ago. One of the things I've learned coming from a scientific background with a clinical degree already in my pocket when I started training, was the development I needed to do with respect to understanding and expressing my humanity (maybe my inner mummy bear?!). I was good at the intellectual, pharmacological, pathophysiology etc but removed from the helping people feel better in order for them to want to get better (jjjez check the research). I've been on the receiving end of both types of nurse (as well as grumpy nurse, weird nurse and hungover nurse!) and am of the opinion that I want both poles integrated in the nurses nursing me please if I'm in the position again of needing them at all.
    If you haven't learned the art and humanity of personal care or refused to take part then you are not a nurse at the end of your training, or after come to think of it, you are a technician.

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  • I am a second year student and I truly believe that you can only deliver the highest standards of care to patients if you are able to carry out the most basic and fundamental skills. What kind of nurse would we be if we couldn't provide a patient with a bed bath or clean them when they soil themselves! I had never done any health care before I started my RNDip course so the HCA's were valuable to me. Yes at times you do feel you are more a HCA but its certainly not all the time and my mentors have all been brilliant in that I could approach them if I felt I wanted to learn new skills or get involved in different elements of care. Nursing is not just about adminstering drugs it is about treating patients holistically and if it means cleaning up poo to become more aware of your patient then so be it its the role you have chosen to go into. It can often be a time when we can make many other observations about that patient.

    Students who complain about doing basic core skills are giving those of us who are willing to do anything if it enhances both patient care and our placement experiences a bad name!!

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  • the funny thing is that when you have been qualified a few years you really love it when you ever get the opportunity to give hands on personal care!
    I have been qualified 7 years and truly miss the days when we showered our patients as well as doing the meds, ward rounds, dressings, ivs, paperwork etc, yes was a lot to do but the patient contact was the best bit!
    getting to know your patient and building a strong rapport can be essential to assessing them properly and being privvy to facts/anxieties they may not otherwise have brought up.

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  • also i wonder if jjjz (above) has ever been an inpatient for a period of time and if so, does s/he still think that personal care is last in ouor list of responsibilities? ask any patient what makes the most difference to them and judge by their answers

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  • Most students these days are lazy and far too up themselves ever to make good nurses

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  • Wow, lets all clear up poo. After all that is the core of nursing isnt it? Surely patients come into hospital because they are sick? Yes cleaning a patient up is necessary but you dont need to be a qualified nurse to do that. A qualified nurse's role is so much more than that. You need to be able to interpret observations or is it a case of hang on in there honey, your BPs in your boots, your SATS are unreadable, your RR is through the roof but to hell with that, lets clean your bottom first? Its about time we all came clean, cleaning poo is no fun for anyone, but a nurse's role goes much much wider than that. Of course students need to learn to clean patients up but they also have many many more things to learn and only one opportunity to do it in. Give them a break.

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