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'Does it really have to be so tough to become a nurse?'


With a huge shortage of nurses in the not so distant future, should nursing education not be looking at how to attract more students onto the course?

I’m writing this from London, where I’m in the middle of my dream elective placement: a week in picu and a week at Great Ormond Street.

I’m so excited about what I’m learning over these two weeks; it couldn’t be more different to the general children’s nursing that makes up the majority of my training, but I can’t help myself wishing hard for the end.

Because once these two weeks are over, I’ll have finished year two of my training! It’s been a tough year, and I definitely wasn’t prepared for how hard it was going to be.

It has felt like a constant whirlwind of placement, work, essays, more work and exams- an unrelenting level of stress that never seemed to subside, there were never enough hours to do the reading I needed to do, and I’m hoping against hope that next year isn’t quite so tough.

Most third years that I meet tell me that second year is the worst, the most stressful, and hopefully they are right (if they’re not, please don’t tell me until after my holidays!).

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not unhappy. I love what I do and wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.

I’m proud of how hard I’ve worked this year and how well I’m doing. But does it really need to be so tough to become a nurse? I shouldn’t be wishing it away surely.

Some argue that the only ones who stick it out are those who really really want to, but I’m not convinced that’s the greatest recruitment technique. With a huge shortage of nurses in the not so distant future, should nursing education not be looking at how to attract more students onto the course?

There are several recent and upcoming reviews into pre-reg education, but none of them look at improving quality of life for students and allowing us to concentrate on learning all we need to.

Simple things like making sure our bursaries come through on time (or at all), our placement expenses get returned quickly (WHY, in 2014, do we have to post our expenses out?!? Why there is not an instant online system is beyond me), and maybe even arranging the year so that those with children are not on placement during school holidays. These little things would make so much difference to a lot of student nurses.

It would mean that we don’t have to work three jobs and write essays at night.

Or even just that we’re a bit less stressed and not waiting to hop on a flight to Australia as soon as we qualify.

As I keep arguing, nobody does this course just for fun, or because they don’t know what else to do.

Yes we care, and this training will ensure we’re good nurses, but keep making it so tough and people just won’t want to do it.

There won’t be the students we need to plug the predicted shortfall in nurses, and those who do qualify won’t want to stay. It’s no good just looking into how to make pre-reg education better, they need to look at how to make it more attractive to potential nurses, those who look at the finances now and know they can’t afford to do it. Or those who go to an open day and get told that they will be on 13 hour shifts during every single one of their child’s half term holidays.

Good nurses come from good training, but what do we get from intense, chaotic, stressful training? Exactly.

Maybe someone could talk to us about what would improve our education. But I suppose that is too much to ask…

Rachael Starkey is Student Nursing Times’ student editor for Child Branch


Readers' comments (3)

  • I have to agree!!! The expenses is silly, I sent out the forms straight away and it always takes upwards of three months to get the money returned!! My view is that we should get more of a student loan too. I do not meant to sound ungreatful for what we do get, but I still have to work 30 hours a week along side my studies to live. And this is not money for partying and new shoes... This is simply so i can pay my rent, bills and travelling expenses. I understand that many people believe that being a student is easy because we get 'free money' but we dont!! I would rather get more of a student loan that we pay back after the degree is finished and be able to focus 100% on my studies and not have to work, then struggle trying to fit in time to study becasue of work commitments.

    Its sad to say but the majority of people on my course can not wait to finish their degree so they can leave this country and practice elsewhere. I personally want to continue to work within the NHS. However, with greater pay and benefits elsewhere, that may not be an option for me.

    This country produces some amazing nurses from the drgree programmes. Statistically the majority leave with a 2:2. Imagine how much that could increase if there was more funding for nursing students? I work very hard at my degree, but i know that on some assignments i could have done better. Looking at my grades at the beginning of the year i was getting A* in everything...... then my savigs ran out and i had to start workimg.... my greades now are a B/C..... I know if i had more time to study my greads would remain high. I feel disapointed that no one else seems to see this problem.

    Surely it would be better to loan nursing students an extra £1000 per year (for exampple) and produce nursing students that are leaving with a first class degree.....???

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  • I completely agree with everything you have written - there definitely needs to be changes to this. The stresses we have as nursing students can just become too much - I've seem some amazing students in my year who would make brilliant nurses leaving because of financial hardship.

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  • HCSW

    If you are able to work 30h pw along your study, it means you dont study hard enough ;-)

    I have passed my exams for an adult nursing course, I saved 10k, but it wont last long..

    Tough time ahead of me... Im not surprised that all student nurses are so slim!

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