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Respiratory blog: It's tough to make the grade in nursing

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Our respiratory nurse specialist Janelle Yorke welcomes the triumphs and troubles of a new batch of nursing students

It is the start of a new academic year. For thousands of people in the UK this means the beginning of a career in nursing. For others it will mean a return to studies to further develop their nursing careers.

For university nursing lecturers like me, it marks the beginning of a busy and exciting time. The halls and classrooms are buzzing again. My new tutorial group are in their first week of a three-year course in adult nursing and my other group are entering their third year. A couple of nurse students were lost along the way and I wait in anticipation to see who, in this new group, will be the first to drop out.

Of course I sincerely hope all of my 20 new students successfully graduate in three years time but in reality this probably won’t be the case. The issue of student nurse attrition is complex. NT report that 50% of students consider quitting because of financial difficulties with most bursary students having to do extra work to make end meets.

Well, I guess that is nothing new – I certainly remember working weekend shifts in a nursing home to pay the bills while studying to be a nurse. Many students studying other courses face the same struggles. But that doesn’t make it right.

The other issue is the amount and level of study requirements and individual student abilities. One needs to make a certain grade to become a qualified registered nurse. Yes, the expectations can be tough for some but in order to make our mark in the every advancing health arena of multi-professionalism, registered nurse intelligence is vital.

The aim is create critical thinkers who can deliver and articulate creative, productive, and evidence-based care. These are vital assets to have if nurses are to play any meaningful role as patients’ advocates and hold weight with other health professionals. So, yes we do lose some people who cannot make the registered nurse grade and they will need to consider other options.

Another issue is the students’ experience in clinical practice. We have a debrief session after each clinical placement and I also brace myself for the stories that will be relayed back to me.

Some stories are about poor practice and others about the lack of support for students’ learning experience. Why is it, I ask myself, that many of the reflection assignments I read relate to one or both of these issues? Surely all of these students can’t be exaggerating? But when a good example comes through, and there are many of these as well, then it is that story that makes me proud to be a part of the nursing profession.

Being passionate about our work, especially respiratory nursing is one way of promoting ourselves and encouraging students to keep up with the good work even when the going gets tough. It is up to us to show them that it is worth it in the end. To be a respiratory nurse is extremely rewarding.

We need to make sure we demonstrate this to our next generation of nurses and hopefully many of them will become the respiratory nurses of the future. Having said that, we must continue to advance our own respiratory nursing career pathways. Being a role model for others involves keeping up-to-date and furthering our own education.

Supporting and encouraging each other to advance our expertise and knowledge will enhance our professional stance within respiratory care. So I wish all of you who are starting, returning or contemplating further study the very best of success with your endeavours.

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