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Student nurses complain qualified colleagues wear nail varnish


Qualified staff often set a poor example to nursing students on infection prevention and control practices, claim the authors of a study.

They found 100% of the student nurses they surveyed had observed lapses in infection prevention and control practices during their clinical placements.

The researchers, from Cardiff University and London’s City University, conducted an anonymous online survey of nursing students who were members of the Royal College of Nursing.

All of the 488 students who completed the 19-question survey reported witnessing at least one instance of non-compliance with infection prevention and control procedures. The most frequently observed events related to hand hygiene.

More than 75% of respondents saw healthcare workers fail to clean hands between patients, and 60% saw healthcare workers wearing nail polish or nail extensions.

Other lapses observed by more than half of survey respondents included failure to comply with isolation precautions, inadequate cleaning of the patient environment, not changing personal protective clothing between patients, and poor handling of sharp instruments.

The students commented most often about the poor hygiene and safety habits of doctors, but all occupational groups were criticised for touching their face, biting nails, and scratching during patient care.

The authors said: “Qualified staff provided poor role models for student nurses. The findings of this study indicate the need for better role models for student nurses.”

The study was published in the latest issue of the American Journal of Infection Control.

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Readers' comments (18)

  • It would be interesting to see how many of these students would themselves be guilty of 'lapses' when they qualify and join the ranks of those who appear to be guilty of the most heinous crimes in healthcare.........The Registered Nurse. Off with their heads, I say. Oh dear, what would happen to all those sick people? Who would after them.

    It would be nice to, just once, have an article which shows the evidence base for the frankly superb job that the vast majority of qualified nurses in spite of all the obstacles and sh*t thrown at them.

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  • I suspect that we are all guilty of occasional dipps and may do something silly like not boiling our hands regularly enough...

    That said the vast majority of care will be done at least adequately, and mistakes will happen.

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  • Once again another survey designed to degrade what nurses do. How about letting us have lives outside of work? In every other occupation it is acceptable, why not nursing? I understand the reasons behind nail polish and nail extension removal, but touching our faces and scratching??? I think the general public sometimes forget that we are indeed human, and have human needs....such as scratching an itch!

    How about an article about nurses having to look after 8 sick patients a shift, answering bells from people demanding their water jugs be refilled, having so many isolated patients that most of the shift is actually taken up by putting on and removing isolation gowns, gloves, face masks etc?

    Most nurses I have worked with are 100% dedicated to patient care, but find it a struggle dealing with the huge amount of paperwork (a lot of which is doubled up from one ward to another). When am I going to have the privilege to read an article about how great nurses are, the care they give in extremely challenging situations, and what a huge benefit they are to the community, for the low wages they receive, and the long hours they put in?

    I am sick of seeing the work that healthcare professionals do put down and torn apart. We are only there to help and support the public. We don't need to keep being run down by those in the media.

    Sorry about the rant.

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  • Low wages and long hours?

    Can you earn as much in the same span elsewhere?
    This is a bit of a throwback to the 70s and 80s.
    We earn the average wage on the whole [which means many are paid less] and even with a bit of unpaid OT do not really work long hours generally. A long day is of course long hours - but only 13 shifts per 28 days.
    Back in the 70s we were truly downtrodden... and I feel pretty well off in comparison. But I never came into nursing for the money - I am one of those sad saps who had a 'vocation'

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  • Anonymous | 10-Sep-2013 12:45 pm

    No. You are just one of those sad saps who dragged this profession down into the gutter because you didn't have the intelligence to see how badly you were treated and how poorly you were remunerated. Or the courage to do anything about it. Your legacy is a downtrodden, low status, low paid and, (worst of all), low aspiration 'profession'. And you have the cheek to call that a 'vocation'.

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  • Anonymous | 10-Sep-2013 12:21 pm

    Well said.

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  • Anonymous | 10-Sep-2013 1:28 pm

    at least in those days you could call it 'nursing'!

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  • Anonymous | 10-Sep-2013 2:39 pm

    You also scrubbed the floors with a toothbrush, ran around making tea for matron and the doctors and spent hours emptying the ashtrays on the patients lockers! In those days you harmed and killed more people with antiquated and dangerous practices. Take off the rose tinted spectacles and blink in the harsh light of truth. is still called Nursing.

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  • Anonymous | 10-Sep-2013 4:26 pm

    it might still be called nursing in name only as there are no better alternatives.

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  • Anonymous | 10-Sep-2013 5:05 pm

    That's your best shot?! You really have no idea, have you?

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