With jobs in uncertain supply, some nursing students wonder whether the three-year university slog is worthwhile and their morale sinks.
It needn’t be that way. Their anxiety could be eased if there were a government guarantee of at least temporary employment at the end of it all. But, of course, such safety nets are not in favour. It is all left to ‘market forces’. If nurses cannot find work on qualification, so be it.
Apart from employment uncertainty, it does not help that in-course bursaries are so mean.
A sum of £6,915 is not generous by any standard and falls far short of the national minimum wage. Assuming a working week of 35 hours, it amounts to just £3.80 an hour. From day one, students are having to beg and borrow to live.
One way of providing in-course help would be to discard the convenient fiction that students on placement are ‘supernumerary’ and pay them a proper wage for placement work. Instead, planners perpetuate a monstrous pretence that allows them to be used as unpaid auxiliaries for half of their three-year training time.
The unfairness of the system is obvious to all. Yet many students won’t even talk about it openly for fear of being dubbed uncooperative. The vast majority of students want nothing more on placement than to muck in as part of the care team, however hard and dirty the work may be.
That’s why they chose to take up nursing.
What demoralises them is being taken for granted and having their placement inputs denied for the financial convenience of the government.
Lesley McHarg is a third-year nursing student in Scotland