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Raising concerns: ‘I was told I was just a naïve student nurse’


James recieved little support from his trust when he raised concerns, but knowing his university were behind him gave him the confidence to put his patient first


SOS Student Ambassador, James Merrell

I found the nurses on my first placement inspiring, even under some of the most stressful circumstances. I remember one day when it felt like call bells were ringing constantly, but all the nurses on the ward helped each and every one of them nursed with care and compassion.

That day, I was asked to look after a patient who was deemed vulnerable. A specialist nurse came to the ward to review the patient and I took the opportunity to attend the patient’s bedside and see what I could learn from a nurse specialist.

I was shocked to then hear her make derogatory remarks about the patient’s condition. The patient was upset but the nurse continued to make horrible comments and openly laughed at the patient.

We had been taught about the NMC code of conduct in university and I was aware of my professional duty to report any concerns in the workplace that could be putting patients at risk. With this in mind, I decided to take my concerns to a hospital manager.

I felt the staff at Bournemouth University were proactive and forthcoming with students who were having problems on placement, which gave me added confidence in raising my concerns. I researched whistleblowing before my meeting with the hospital manager, but found little evidence on student nurse whistleblowing, however I was still determined to come forward.

I discussed my concerns at the meeting and explained what had happened. I was told that I was just a naive student nurse, who needed to gain more experience before contributing to or raising safeguarding issues.

I tried to make it clear that I didn’t want the nurse to get into trouble, that my concern was my patient and the impact the incident could have on him. My concerns were dismissed and I was left feeling like a failure and questioning whether I had done the right thing.

I know it is human nature to make mistakes, but it is also human nature to create solutions and identify alternatives. I wasn’t saying the nurse wasn’t good at her job, I was suggesting that maybe she needed to reflect on her practice so other patients wouldn’t have this experience.

Despite this experience I would still raise a concern.

I got involved with Speak Out Safely because I strongly believe that schools of nursing have a significant responsibility to provide ongoing support for students who whistleblow. Knowing my university was on my side made doing the right thing far easier.


James Merrell is a third year student nurse at Bournemouth University and an SOS Student Ambassador


Readers' comments (2)

  • Well done James. You have the makings of an excellent nurse with a conscience. I have blown the whistle a few times in my career and I don't regret any of them. What I do deeply regret is NOT blowing the whistle when I was a student nurse myself and a ward manager thought it was acceptable to tie elderly patients to the toilet on a psychiatric ward. This was 25 years ago and sadly not an isolated occurence back then before whistleblowing was invented as such but it still haunts me. Never ignore something you know instinctively isn't right. It usually isn't.

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  • Alice Eveleigh

    Well done Jim :) I love your writing.

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