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EDITOR’S COMMENT

'Students should not be propping up the NHS'

  • 6 Comments

We’ve heard concerns about the proposed removal of the bursary expressed by student nurses, university deans and nursing unions. 

Cynics could be forgiven for thinking “they would say that, wouldn’t they?” but now we’ve heard frontline nurses are also concerned that the removal of the bursary will affect their ability to provide safe, compassionate, high-quality care.

Speaking at the Unison health conference in Brighton last week, charge nurse Stuart Tuckwood said with resources cut so lean, his team relied on student nurses to prop up their service to ensure it delivered kind, compassionate care (read the story here). Whatever happened to supernumerary status?

Right across the NHS, staffing is painfully inadequate in many care settings. Unable to recruit enough nurses to reach establishment numbers and ordered to not fill rotas with agency staff, nurse managers have been forced to rely on students to talk to patients, provide personal care and make them comfortable.

Nurses at the Unison conference fear the removal of the bursary will deter people from entering the profession, and thereby cut off the one supply of labour that’s proved useful to both them and their patients – and affordable to their employers.

Of course, no health service should rely on students to provide care. Student nurses should be supernumerary. But things are now so bad nurses have no choice but to depend on them to provide the kindness they wish their permanent staff had the time to offer. If nurses are standing up at a conference and saying that they can’t survive without the support of students, we are in trouble.

Having presented the Student Nursing Times Awards last week, I know students are superb providers of compassionate care. Chief nursing officer for England Jane Cummings said at the event that students were not the future of the profession – they are already the profession. But they should not be replacing registered nurses in the way that those comments at last week’s Unison conference indicate they clearly are.

Alarm bells are ringing loudly. But no one in the government is listening. They have a plan – which is to cut, cut, cut. And when we think they can cut no more, they will come back with a new and sharper knife.

 

 

  • 6 Comments

Readers' comments (6)

  • 'But things are now so bad nurses have no choice but to depend on them to provide the kindness they wish their permanent staff had the time to offer'.

    Student nurses should be providing this already. It is part of training and part of personal and professional growth.

    Student nurses should be more involved in direct care, not shielded from it by their pre-registration status.

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  • michael stone

    I think this one is fairly complex - my feeling is that student nurses should not be used routinely to 'fill in for inadequate staffing' although obviously there has to be an aspect of 'actually doing the job' within learning. Provided the emphasis is on the 'student' - that these people are there to learn how to nurse - there will inevitably be some 'blurring' between 'learning and doing', which I think is both okay and necessary: but using student nurses 'to prop up the NHS' seems to be the wrong side of the line.

    As for:

    ' But things are now so bad nurses have no choice but to depend on them to provide the kindness they wish their permanent staff had the time to offer.'

    well, that is surely where this 'stick' various people are 'bashing nurses with' (the 'nurses no longer care' stick) comes from - if the NHS has forced nurses into 'not being able to demonstrate that they do care' then there is a serious problem [especially re 'perception'] which needs addressing.

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  • Students are meant to be taught, mentored, and should not be counted in the numbers as they have supernumerary status. While I do not believe there is a line between 'learning and doing' as doing is an integral part of learning, I do believe that learning requires supervision. As a first year student this supervision should be direct. At all times. A first year student should not be left alone to perform any kind of care due to staff constraints. During the second and third year a certain balance of direct and indirect supervision is required for a student to be able to learn the skills needed at that stage and reflect appropriately.
    For every shift a student is used as part of the workforce a learning opportunity is lost. Every learning opportunity lost is a skill lost. When students qualify having lost too many learning sessions, what does that mean to patient safety?
    We spend so much time in placements, more than most other European countries, and less time in the lecture halls. Even less in the skills labs. If we are then not taught very much during most of our time in placements we will inevitably qualify with a certain level of skill deficiency.

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  • Anthony Johnson

    It wouldn't be the Nursing Times without Michael Stone knee-capping nurses. Let's be clear we're making students work. And now the government wants them to pay for the privilege of doing so.

    That is not acceptable, it is the equivalent of modern slavery.

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  • michael stone

    SHREWDLE93

    '... without Michael Stone knee-capping nurses'

    !!!

    I wrote - you apparently did not read !:

    'As for:

    ' But things are now so bad nurses have no choice but to depend on them to provide the kindness they wish their permanent staff had the time to offer.'

    well, that is surely where this 'stick' various people are 'bashing nurses with' (the 'nurses no longer care' stick) comes from - if the NHS has forced nurses into 'not being able to demonstrate that they do care' then there is a serious problem [especially re 'perception'] which needs addressing..

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  • As a first year student nurse, I feel we don't have supernumerary status when in the hospital setting, but we do in community. On my ward placement I was rarely supervised doing personal care, obs, BMs, and other paperwork. I feel like it's ok to do things unsupervised if you feel confident enough and have been shown it before and done it under supervision, as this is what builds your confidence and helps you learn. I think there is problem though when if for example a patient scored a 3 on their NEWS chart: I wouldn't know what to do about it so would have to go and tell my mentor which always felt as if I was bothering them, whne if they had been there with me this wouldn't have been the case.

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