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Nurses must not aim their frustrations at students


It’s that time of year when everyone has something wrong with them. Me? My arm hurts. My wife has a clicky knee that appears to prevent her from putting the kettle on. Jamie, Paul and Sophie all have coughs. Bonnie has hiccups. Gail has lost her mobile, which isn’t the same but means I can’t call her to see if anything hurts.

Frankly, I think this is why we have Christmas right in the middle of winter - to distract us from the sore throats, achy joints and sinus swelling that plague us when the sun is farthest away.

Most of us love Christmas. Some of us like shopping, some like sitting around for two days with a green paper hat on, others like eating tins of sweets that make their teeth ache more than their hurty arm. We can usually find some outlet from tension, low lying pain or darkness induced misery in Christmas and, in so doing, gird our loins for the hell that is January and what I have always thought of as that most sarcastic of months, February. With its silent “r” and its silly number of days; can’t stand February.

But perhaps Christmas - despite the promptings of supermarkets that appeared to start jingling bells in September - is not so close that we can let go of our flakes of pain or irritation where some things are concerned. Like student nurses: I can’t help feeling they are bearing the brunt of a wholesale irritation within the nursing world and isn’t it rather unbecoming?

‘We have Christmas right in the middle of winter to distract us from the sore throats and achy joints that plague us when the sun is farthest away’

Goodness knows there is a lot to be unhappy about at the moment. It is wet, cold and dark. Cuts are coming, services are struggling, morale is low and, as if this wretched government is not bad enough, there is every chance we will reach even lower into the bowels of pomposity by having a bunch of Tories in power by the middle of next year.

But surely students are the last people to whom the profession’s dissatisfaction should be directed. Some suggest they can’t do care plans (if that is the case you could always show them or fail them), or they are too “educated” to concern themselves with fundamental care (half of them spend their days off working as care assistants which is pretty fundamental).

But maybe I am being glib. Maybe there is a crisis of education the like of which we haven’t seen since the last time. There is, of course, a perpetual crisis of education in nursing - it is one of the things that defines us. Nurses are either too practical or too clever, too kind or too scientific, undertrained or overeducated. And this has been the story since about 1904.

We may end up changing everything again or we may just tinker a while depending on who shouts loudest and what mood those with power are in. But while we wait to see I can’t help feeling that students themselves deserve a bit more respect than they might be getting. They don’t design the training, they don’t choose their teachers or their mentors. They just want to nurse. Maybe it’s something to which we should, and could, all be a bit kinder?

Happy Christmas.


Readers' comments (10)

  • Thank you Mark! I am a 3rd year student and to be honest was a little fed up with being considered as the cause of all the problems in the NHS. I work as an HCA on my days off and have never been afraid to do any task that is required of me either as a HCA or student. If you ask the majority of students they would like more practical content in the training but as you pointed out, we do not get to chose what we are taught. From what I have seen by working in healthcare for the past 10 years is that this is a problem that just keeps going round and round and to be honest probably always will, no matter whio is in power or what type of traing nurses do. Please can we all try and work together and remember that the nurses are trying to do their best with very little resources and the students are just trying to learn.

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  • I am a second year student nurse and I agree with the comments made thus far, up to a point! But the main problem with the training is that it just does not cut the mustard. As far as I can tell mentorship is an exercise in cost cutting. Bring back the old system, we need dedicated trainers based in the hospital whose only job is to train the students and not, as is the current situation, to lump more responsibility on already overstretched staff!

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  • I am also fed up with it all. I wonder what other health professionals thinks about nursing.

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  • Absolutely Mark and thankyou, it is nice to finally hear some positive comments about students! As a third year currently finishing up my so called 'elective' placement, I am sick to death of all the criticism, it seems like the nursing profession isn't happy unless it's tearing itself apart from the inside out!

    I do have to say however that I agree with the first comment, the training just isn't up to scratch, in the sense that there is FAR too much emphasis on 'fluffy' subjects that have very little to do with real nursing or medical care, and not enough practical skills or medical knowledge. I think it is a credit to nursing students that we do so well despite this.

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  • I'm a 3rd year student on my final placement and I'm still being treated as 'useless' by some staff! For instance, being watched like a hawk carrying out the simplest of tasks. Other staff expect me, quite rightly, to be competent enough to cope with most things and leave me to it. I despair at being in this limbo state... What qualified nurses should remember is that nursing requires career long learning - we never stop being students! And I totally agree with the above statement, less of the 'fluffy' subjects, and more emphasis on essential clinical skills would prepare students more for life on the ward!

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  • i am a senior staff nurse within a very busy forensic psychiatric ward! i largley agree with what most pepole are saying, but the main problem is above all of our heads. BUDGET! we are understaffed, we have overstretched our resources and exhausted!! i am a very keen educator and have a real passion for this, but too my disapointment when we do have students in our ward we have no time to spend with them...otherwise tied up with the basic day to day running of the ward. the first solution i can thin kto the benefit of our futrue nurses is to bring back the old system of nurse educators.. who are there purley for this purpose!!!!!

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  • Thank you Mark. I have just started my 3rd year as a student and although on the whole I have been very lucky with my placements, I have also had a few where I have been made to seriously question whether I wanted to keep going. It is nice to hear someone support us. I would like to think that my bad experiences will one day make me a good mentor for someone else. Something good should always come from something bad. I know our mentors have a huge workload and I for one appreciate what they do for us but some need to remember what it was like.

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  • I am a second year student and up until now i have had great placements - on my last placement all of the staff but one were amazing and both times i worked with her she sat on the computer for over 3 hours of the day looking on the find a property webpage whilst i wrote her care plans and checked patients drugs with the other nurses on the ward. The other nurses on the ward found this ridiculous but were so encouraging and willing to help me sign off skills in my placement book unfortunately it is not all nurses that treat students badly but the ones that do give the others a bad name which really sucks as there are some really wonderful nurses out there who would really go out of their way to make sure you are in the thick of the wards daily running.

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  • Thank you mark, A good many points. I am very new to this i am currently on my first placement and have found it a little frustrating that although my mentor is very good. He just does not have the time to spend explaing things to me and i seem to do alot of his paperwork. Not that i mind but i feek quite sure that in my first placement knowing how to deal with the admin side of nursing is not really a priority. Maybe its just me , who knows.

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  • A good many points as stated, I am am a second year student but previously worked as a hca for many years. I feel desperately sorry for the nurses whom get the task of watching our every move and have to answer our many questions. I have been very fortunate with placements and mentors. But The NMC and government are putting nurses in an impossible situation there is not enough funding for adequate staffing levels so for supervision of students to be a priority this must change either by more dedicated education practicioners specific for this task or more support for the nurses currently undertaking this role! We cannot help with the way things are set out but if we work as a team it makes a difficult situation far more bearable!!

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