Here at Nursing Times, we put our money where our mouth is and we created studentnursingtimes.net, an online-only community hub to allow students to share experiences and best practice.
We followed that up by producing the annual Student Nursing Times Awards.
But it’s not just about their learning. I think that the rest of the profession – indeed healthcare system – can learn a lot from student nurses. While they don’t have as much experience as their qualified colleagues, they bring a fresh perspective, a new pair of eyes and the latest thinking in clinical practice to their placements.
I was talking to a group of university students and they described how some placements welcome them and tell them on day one how they must share what they have learnt recently with their peers. They have a thirst to learn from those who have had access to the latest research and technology. And this is brilliant to see.
But it’s not always the case. Some students tell me that their input is ignored, and they are marginalised, discounted and treated at best dismissively – and at worst – rudely.
The vast majority of student experiences on placement is fantastic. They are enthused, taught well and involved. But incidents like those above can dent confidence and intimidate students from speaking out when they see poor practice. And that memory can stay with them throughout their careers – always making them afraid of raising concerns.
Student nurses tell me that they’ve witnessed patients being treated rudely or ignored. They tell me that some instances have made them feel very uncomfortable. And while they know the right thing to do is challenge it – and they often do – they are anxious about doing so. Often those who have voiced concerns have felt they have been handled inappropriately by the trust – and their mentors have bullied them afterwards or made life very difficult for them – even to the point of failing them on their placement.
Lecturers tell me their position feels invidious. They have no authority over the trust, yet frequently may see complaints crop up about a certain individual or placement.
If we want to stamp out this culture of bullying and intimidation, we have to do it from day one. Nurses have to role model the behaviour they expect to see from their students. They should accept the curiosity and challenge as a positive thing – and yes I know that will be hard at the end of a long and tiring shift. Because what’s the alternative? These student nurses are the ones could be looking after you and your loved ones in the not so distant future, and wouldn’t you rather they were engaged, educated and motivated when they did so?
If you’ve got a student in your organisation or you’re mentoring one – make sure they feel able to raise concerns with you.
Everyone should be heard – with or without an NMC pin number. Everyone deserves to Speak Out Safely.