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Student nurses call for longer clinical placements


Nursing students want fewer but longer clinical placements, according to the union Unison.

Students are also concerned about the suitability of some of their clinical placements which, in one example, included working in a shop, according to a report seen by Nursing Times.

Students must currently complete 2,300 hours of clinical practice and placements must last a minimum of four weeks. However, it is up the individual university to decide how many placements each student must complete.

In its formal submission to the Nursing and Midwifery consultation on revised standards for pre registration nursing courses, Unison said students believed they were being moved through too many placements too quickly.

The submission, based on the views of the union’s 470 branches, states: “Many [students] indicated that they only just became settled and find their ‘feet’ when it was time to move on.

“They indicated that a longer allocation would enable them to develop further in their practise and spend more time with their mentors.”

But the union also questions the appropriateness of some current placements. While it recognises the need for students to learn a whole range of skills and cope with a variety of settings, the union says some of the tasks delegated to students appear irrelevant.

It its submission Unison says: “Two students specifically were allocated to work in a charity shop. It was difficult to see how this skill and expose would relate to clinical practise.”

Last week Nursing Times revealed that student nurses were often being signed off or passed for clinical placements, despite concerns from their mentors about competence or attitude.   

In response to the findings, many students expressed concerns on at the lack of time they were able to spend with mentors, as well as the quality of some mentoring.

One student who had just completed their first placement said: “I found it extremely challenging to get my paperwork signed off, without sounding like I was continuously nagging for their time.”

A third year student said: “Some mentors are rubbish, using us as dog’s bodies and we end up performing tasks the healthcare assistants are paid to do.

They added: “At other times you’ll get a fab mentor who really loves sharing their knowledge and skills. Nurses should not be forced to mentor, and this is where the problem comes.”


Readers' comments (28)

  • I am a third year student and in my time I have had some diabolical mentors. Some mentors have got the status just to pass through their gateways. My fellow cohorts and myself all feel that we need more time to care and less time to write assignments and with good mentorship we can do this. We do not want fewer, longer placements, we want to be able to learn in our placements and if anything, we want more placements. How will we decide where to go when we qualify? I think this study is a joke and they need to ask the students instead of feeding them a provoking question like they must have done for this study!

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  • I qualified 4 years ago, so I am part of the "new" breed of University Nurses. In my first year we only had two, short, placements as we covered all A&P and social aspects of nursing, which I felt prepared us for what was to come, so basically 70% of our academic work was out of the way. We then went on to have 3 placements a year that were usually about 10 weeks long. By the end of the third year I felt I had covered the basic nursing skills that I needed. That is essentially what you need in order to do any job in nursing. Yes, all nurses should be mentors and yes, some are better than others, but nursing is a learning profession, we constantly update our skills and if you are link nurses, you constanly update your colleagues, you will always find you share knowledge. The thing is that as students you have to ask and make sure you get what you need out of a placement, it enhances your communication skills and prepares you for what is to come. The way we train may not be perfect, but when you speak to nurses who trained years ago, they will tell you the same thing. You get what you can out of training, it wasn't until my second to last placement that made me realise just what I needed to make it all come together.

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  • I am a 3rd year student and on the whole I have had good mentorship during my placements. In the first year we had 3 placements which included 2 three week taster placements in adult and LD and in year 2 and 3 we have 2 placements. I am not sure about the comment made by a student with regard to doing the job of a HCA as in my mind I gain a great deal of my learning from working alongside HCA's who have a great deal of knowledge, I also gain my knowledge from housekeepers, admin staff, porters and lets not forget the doctors and other health care professionals! My problem has come from the knowledge that some students pass placements because the mentors feel obliged to pass them and not because they are competent. I have frequently heard that mentors are not given the support from the university to fail students and have witnessed this. There appears to be a them and us scenario between the university and the practice placements and with the cuts at university this is set to get worse with less lecturers meaning less contact with students on placement. I regularly have to explain the practice portfolio to mentors as they don't really know what is expected and the book is not really explained to us at university so I have had to learn for myself. However my main thought is that learning is a two way thing and if my mentor was not giving me a good learning experience I would highlight the needs of a student to them in order to enhance their learning as a mentor!

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  • I'm a student nurse in my 3rd yr and i am due to qualify in January. I have had lots of different experiences throughout my 3yrs training including spending some time in placements that don't appear relevant to nursing. My placements were mostly 12 wks and some short placements. I think more time should be spent on the wards learning the skills you will be using in your career as a staff nurse.

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  • Our placements were 8 to 12 weeks depending on speciality. For our specials this 12 weeks was essential. Occasionally we did a shorter fill in on general wards between specialities, especially during our second and third years or where there was a shortage of staff. The system usually worked well and I was sometimes grateful for the shorter ones on the wards from hell where I didn't feel I was learning or achieving anything by being there!

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  • I'm currently in my third year of study, and feel that placements are about the right length - universities can't win; either placements are too short and we get lots of variation through our training or they are too long and we don't have enough variance.
    However, some mentors are rubbish; making you feel stupid for asking questions and feel as though you are nagging to get your paperwork signed off. Mentorship should be a choice between the nurse, her manager and the university - she shouldn't be forced into it! On the other hand some mentors are absolutely amazing and I've personally had placements where my mentor was shocked when I happily helped the hca's instead of following my mentor around like a lost sheep!

    I think the current set up is fine, although you sometimes don't get enough variance through placements - that's nobody's fault as each opportunity is what you make of it!

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  • i am a student nurse and have just completed a 12 week placement and now on a 10 week placement. I think this is enough time to get to know what is expected and to get the most out of it. We do 2 placements every year which are anything from 8-12 weeks. However if someone was to have a bad placement this is a long time to deal with some of the negativity displayed and the unsuitability displayed on some placements. I feel more support is needed from university but also mentors should have the choice if they want to mentor a student as said above it will reflect on the help given and support.

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  • James Allen

    I'm coming to the end of my first year of training and been on two, eight week placements. On both placement, I was with great mentors who shown and share a lot of knowledge which helped me improve and grown as a nurse. As well in my time on placement, I did feel that if the placement time could have been longer, a lot more could have been learnt, as I learn better through doing more hands on than sat in a lecture. For me longer placement time would have been better.

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