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'I am a student nurse and I have never, ever refused to participate in basic nursing care'

  • Comments (22)

I love what I do, I love being a student nurse and being challenged by university and my placement to broaden my learning and knowledge. 

However find myself obliged to defend student nurses after reading How student nurses’ supernumerary status affects the way they think about nursing, Are student nurses too posh to wash? and Clearing up poo will not help me learn on this week.

At RCN Congress Gordon Brown said nursing is a “profession where you work with your head, heart and hands at the same time”.  I agree, nursing is a profession that is demanding and rewarding. I cannot imagine myself doing anything else. We may be students, but we do work hard and we are continually challenged on every level to use our heads, hearts and hands.

As a student nurse, I have never, ever refused to participate in basic nursing care. I have each and every time thrown myself into the role of student and willingly learnt about bedside care from HCAs and staff nurses. 

I was lucky enough to have a fabulous mentor on my very first placement. She had only been qualified about 18 months ago but she made sure I understood how important the basics were. Every day she came and did the care round with me and ensured I understood the importance of dignity, respect, examining the patient, communicating, and making sure the patient was comfortable.

Life lessons

The lessons she taught me will stay with me forever. Yes, while at university we had a skills session on performing a bed bath. Performing bedside care on a dummy is vastly different to performing it on a real life human being. No matter how hard university tries – it can’t simulate the real life experiences that you get as a student on the wards. 

But university can help you learn the reasons for what you do; it’s up to the individual to apply the theory. University equip us with the knowledge we need to become nurses, but practice comes only with experience. The universities give us the text books to read and the essays to write in the hope that we will broaden our knowledge and be educated practitioners.

“I don’t believe student nurses are too ‘posh to wash’, and I do believe we should know the basics”

But writing a good essay does not a good nurse make.

Being supernumerary means we are additional to the clinical workforce, and we undertake placements in clinical areas to learn; we are not counted as members of staff. I have never found being supernumerary detrimental to my status as a student. Being supernumerary has allowed me the flexibility to muck in as HCA, to do the drugs round with the qualified staff, to be able to go and watch procedures or attend appointments with patients. When I’m qualified I won’t have this flexibility, so I like to grab every learning opportunity that I can.

Back to basics

As for student nurses refusing to perform basic care? Perhaps this has been misconstrued.

When we go on placement we have paperwork to complete, this sometimes becomes the focus of a students attention as without this paperwork being signed off, we cannot pass the placement.  I feel that the emphasis university place on having the paperwork completed can result in some students losing sight of other things, especially if they have a mentor who doesn’t have the time to complete the paperwork. 

But I also acknowledge that the paperwork has to be there as a form of assessment for the mentors, placement areas and universities to be able to assess our competency in practice. We stress about the paperwork, we have tonnes of it, it is perplexing and perhaps at times repetitive - but it needs to be done. As I rapidly approach my 3rd year with a skills log with over 200 competencies that need completing, I am starting to panic.

I don’t believe student nurses are too ‘posh to wash’, and I do believe we should know the basics. Mentors have a massive responsibility in this regard. A good mentor can challenge and develop a student; and help them understand the importance of the basics. I have been incredibly lucky with all my placements and had superb mentors.

And don’t forget we aren’t just student nurses. The majority of us study full time and we also have jobs, kids to look after and our own dramas. But whatever we are going through, the majority of student nurses are here because we are passionate about what we do. We want to learn and we want to be good nurses.

We are perhaps cocooned in the safety of student status. Qualifying, and being suddenly accountable, is a very scary thought. When I qualify I don’t expect to be a ‘supernurse’ who knows everything. I hope to be a safe nurse who understands the importance of the basics.

  • Comments (22)

Readers' comments (22)

  • Anonymous

    Extremely well said, and thank you for speaking up for us students who are more than happy to throw ourselves into basic care!

    It's hurtful to read articles the one about students being 'too posh to wash' that when you're doing your best to become the kind of nurse you would want for yourself or your loved ones.

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    i was studying in Scotland for my diploma in Adult Nursing as a SEN,this seemed the only way forward for me to continue in nursing. as i was unable to get a conversion course.

    The reason i am writing is in the hospital they have real people who volunters themselves for the students to practice on it was great ,how about it coming to England and Wales.

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    Nurses today are no longer trained they are classed as students studying to be a nurse. this way the government managed to get away without paying a living wage ,students do not get wages,so as a compromise they said that student nurses could be awarded a bursary, of around £6,000 how can a full time student nurse manage on this paltry wage it just about covers expensive books and travel expenses.

    The student nurse should have a living wage and then they will be able to put there efforts all into studying instead of moonlighting to bring up their income. Give them a living wage.

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  • I’m a student nurse and I’m not too posh to wash!

    Thank you for defending us student nurses. I feel that student nurses are receiving a lot of bad press lately. I’m a third year student nurse (Qualify in March!! Scary!)

    I don’t think people realise the effort and sacrifices student nurses have to make!

    Firstly there are the full time clinical placements, with a portfolio of competencies to complete, the never ending essays, university, and on top of this there are the personal sacrifices, the extra jobs we have to work to make ends meet! The biggest sacrifice for me has been what i have put my family through during the last three years. Having to write essays instead of spending time with my children, working long hours for a pittance of an income that barely covers their dinner money and my travelling costs!
    Why do I do this? I love my job; I love to be able to make a positive difference to someone’s life, to know that I made that patient feel better, even if its cleaning up poo!
    Nursing is not just about medicine rounds and clinical procedures; nursing is about ‘holistic’ care.

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  • Anonymous

    When I started my training over 2 years ago I had no nursing experience. However, thanks to a fantastic mentor, other staff nurses and nursing assistants I learned basic care from scratch. To me it has been invaluable in my training and reminds me that it is an honour to care for someone who cannot do things for themselves, and how difficult it must be for the patient to have someone else taking care of these needs.

    I have never come across another student who feels that they are 'too posh to wash' and I hope I never do. Although our training incorporates other areas, providing sensitive personal care to another human being reminds us why we are nurses.

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  • Anonymous

    I am a student nurse who has been homeless since september. I am on placement, have tons of essays to write and have to wait til new year to move into affordable accommodation (not state provided). I am lucky enough to have friends who I stay with but couch surfing is all I can afford and it has been a complete nightmare. I turn up on time to placement and get top grades for my work, and think I deserve a bit more respect than what is being dished out at the moment. The amount of people that have dropped out of the course for not putting the effort in, either in attendance, attitude, or commitment maybe should have never been allowed on the course, and maybe a few more of us could live an easier life, financially and in the press.

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  • Anonymous

    I am a student nurse,and I am not too posh to wash,I always do the best I can while on placement.
    I work as hard as I can,juggling family,work study,and yes the bursary we receive is very small compared to all the things we do.
    Hopefully all this sweat,tears and sacrifices will be worth in the end.
    Bye for now.
    p.s. I need to rush for my lesson. Not time to hang around.

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  • i feel this is a well thought but sensitive piece of journalism.

    To be a Nurse, and to be responsible for the "holistic" care of people and to be responsible for the actions and omissions of the Support Worker looking after that person, is it not essential to have an advanced knowledge of bedside nursing and what you would expect the Support Worker to do in their role?

    The term "Holistic" means looking at the whole, which is not possible if you are not wllig t oo at the skin, change pads, feed people and be involved in th provision and mantinence of the daily living activities "we" as a profession strive to achieve!

    In my first year of nursing these were the core elements we looked toward achieving and addressing.

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  • What is all this silly rumours about students being too posh to wash. I can not speak on behalf of all students but from my nearly 3 years experience trusts would be lost without students! Never in my time of placements and bank work have I seen a student refuse to do anything, I think the point from these rumors could be is that students are asked to do things by every single member of the team, because we are singled out as the "student can do it". I have no problem with doing any task as long as I am competent in carrying it out, however there is nothing more annoying than a student running around when other people in the team are not pulling there weight too.

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  • We need to face the facts that some students do nstand around and do not get involved with ADLs , but remember many and I mean most nurses do not either. I have said it before, but it is the NAs/HCAs that do all the hard work!

    Another part of the issue is probably mentors. Unlike the author of the article I have had some horrible mentors on my placements. Though I have also had many excellenbt ones too!

    Nurses, like everyone else, all hgave different characters. I say thank God for that! :-)

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