The standard of student nurse education in this country is very high. That’s why we launched the Student Nursing Times Awards three years ago - to celebrate the fantastic achievements of student nurses and the lecturers and mentors who shape the future generation of nurses.
This year we had a record number of entries for the awards, proving that student nurses and those who are educating them are proud of what they accomplish. And having started to read the entries, I can say justifiably so.
But our investigation into student placements (page 2) shows those in training cannot consistently rely on such a brilliant education. It reveals many universities are struggling to find placements for their students, which means that students are entering the world of work without feeling properly prepared.
One student we spoke to said that she had only been allocated one ward placement, and that everyone in her year felt scared of qualifying because they had had inadequate time in practice.
If universities are struggling to find placements then students will miss the opportunity to develop vital clinical and patient-facing skills. That is unacceptable
This is a terrifying thought. Our survey, published last week to mark the anniversary of the Francis report, revealed over 50% of nurses feel their wards and units are sometimes or always dangerously understaffed and they are thirsty for more nurses to join their ranks. However, they are so short-staffed that they find it hard to dedicate the time to supervising, mentoring and teaching students.
Since the move to all-graduate entry this academic year, the media have often lambasted student training as too academic and insufficiently practical. Of course, we know that 50% of any nursing course is still hands-on, but if universities are struggling to find placements then students will miss the opportunity to develop vital clinical and patient-facing skills. That is unacceptable.
Spending time working with qualified nurses, coping under pressure, performing clinical procedures on patients and seeing how professionals manage their caseload are vital parts of training.
We welcome Health Education England’s workforce plans to increase student numbers by 9% (news, 23 December, page 3), but having that number in training while ward shortages mean qualified nurses are struggling to supervise them will not result in a workforce able to offer high-quality patient care.
Investing in the future isn’t about plotting a graph with increased student numbers. It’s about resourcing the current workforce so skills can be passed onto those coming into the profession. Without that, the legacy of high-quality nursing will be lost forever.
Jenni Middleton, editor
firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow me on Twitter @nursingtimesed