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Are student nurses expected to only speak when they are spoken to?


Marlene was surprised to her about a student being told to watch how she speaks to staff of higher grades. Does this reflect an old-fashioned attitude to nursing hierarchies?


As much as I love nursing, many would agree with me when we say the culture surrounding students and the level of respect that they should have for more experienced staff is definitely outdated.

“You don’t respect hierarchy”, one of my peers was told and another student recently received a warning from a mentor to “watch the way you interact with nurses of a higher banding as they would not appreciate the way you talk to them”.

This warning felt totally out of the blue as the nurse agreed that the student hadn’t offended anyone, however she told her it was something that needed to be said!

I just don’t get it.

I don’t get the old nursing culture that makes it so obvious to students that they should only speak when they are spoken to despite the fact that many nurses often learn new insights into nursing from the students that are coming up behind them, keen to develop as competent nurses.

I question whether this culture should still have its place in modern day nursing. 

It feels as though we’re missing something. Aren’t we supposed to work together as human beings serving a greater goal - the patient and their wellbeing - rather than hear sister or matron talk about not being spoken to with respect and addressed by their title?

“Aren’t we supposed to work together as human beings serving a greater goal - the patient?”

If this is the case then shouldn’t we all be addressed by our titles? I’ll be Mrs BSc PGDip and soon to be MSc Raji and if you get it wrong should I get angry, should I then talk about you and refuse to treat you like another member of the team, an adult and a human being? 

It seems the struggle nurses have had to gain respect over the years, has gone a little too far.

It is almost as though the occupation that was not respected is now taking its vengeance out on those who simply want a career as a nurse. It seems the barriers to this career aren’t the essays or the drugs calculations but the very people that are there to teach us as nursing students and up and coming nurses. 

The nurses that campaign for more staff, that complain about the shortage of nurses within the industry, that feel the strain because of the lack of decent nurses that really want to nurse, seem to be the ones who stand in our way. They do not see that we are professionals, not ‘just a student’, but a person that deserves respect.

These are the attitudes that push us out. That stop nursing student from pursuing their goals and dreams.

“Are we ever going to work side by side without worrying about the scale of niceties?”

I mean, who would want to work with people that behave like this and show us no respect?

Is the old school attitude towards nursing students and the whole respect movement, ever going to die out?

Are we ever going to work side by side without worrying about the scale of niceties and whether we will be slated for not being respectful enough?

My thoughts are that there needs to be a change in attitude and if this blog hits home with at least one nurse, I’m happy that this is the start of something positive. 

Marlene Raji is in her third year studying children’s nursing at City University, London


Readers' comments (3)

  • I absolutely agree. I have experienced exactly what you describe when I was a student. I think that this is a big issue that needs to be looked into and addressed. I think that the concerns you have identified affect every student nurse at least once during their training. The way student nurses are treated by senior nurses, I believe results in many good nursing students pulling out of their nursing studies, as they struggle to come to terms with the realities of nursing and the consequences of not adhering to or questionning the hierarchical system of nursing.
    Keep up the good work of bringing this issue to the forefront Marlene

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  • Thank you for your comments

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  • I also experienced a similar situaion being told in my very first placement that I should remember my place despite having given the correct infomration to a parent who asked my advice rather than that of my mentor. I'm sure most students have had their education unfavourably compared to the training of old with PTS. In the light of such criticism it's easy to to see how so many students become dispirited, however I feel it was a valid learning experience for me in that 1. I was forced to devlop my confidence and tsand up for myself when I hadn't done something wrong and 2. I can artiucately defend modern nurse education and my role within nursing as a profession!

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