Half of student nurses say they have raised concerns about the practice or attitude of a colleague while on placement, according to a survey by Nursing Times.
Just over 30% of respondents said they had raised a concern once, while 17% had done so more often and 2% did so regularly.
“If a patient is placed in immediate danger by a member of staff’s actions then I would like to think that I would say something to them straight away,” said one student.
However, another respondent cautioned: “Many student nurses and newly qualified nurses have issues they wish to raise, but the culture of senior staff knowing better makes this harder.”
Views were mixed over the subsequent result of raising a concern. Only 37% of those who raised one said it lead to an appropriate outcome for practice or attitude.
One respondent said: “I did whistleblow with regards to staff treating the patients badly. I informed the sister and the university but unfortunately nothing was done. During my placement I was then bullied and it was made hell for me, so please do something to help this situation.”
Students were less prepared to raise concerns if the health professional they were concerned about was a senior member of ward staff, with 60% saying they would “definitely feel more worried about raising a concern”.
The survey was carried out by Nursing Times to build evidence on raising concerns in the NHS to help inform the Speak Out Safely campaign. More than 1,400 students completed the survey.
When asked who they would initially approach with a concern, most said they would either pass them on to a mentor or senior staff member (54%) or their tutor (37%). A smaller number (8%) would opt for an informal chat with the person they had concerns about.
Only 16% would be prepared to “whistleblow” to the media if their concerns were not acted upon by those at their placement or university.
Risk of being viewed as a troublemaker was seen as the biggest barrier to raising concerns while on a placement, followed by worries about failing the placement or not getting paperwork signed off.
The threat of bullying by colleagues and the potential failure of their placement organisation to act on their concerns were viewed as problems by half of survey respondents.
More than half, 56%, said the ability of nursing staff to raise concerns in the NHS or wider healthcare sector could be “a lot better”.
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