Student nurse, Natalie Moore, argues against the case of asking potential student nurses to work a year an HCA before starting a degree course
It’s not the suggestion that student nurses should have a year’s experience of being a healthcare assistant that I am opposed to, it’s the reasons behind why it’s been suggested in the first place.
Coverage of this seems to have focused on general nursing and I think the matter is more complicated for those of us working in mental health.
The recommendation of having a year’s experience as a HCA stems from wanting student nurses to be able to provide basic care to their patients.
I think everybody would agree that this can only be a benefit to the profession. But having worked as a mental health support worker for several years and now as a student mental health nurse I’ve noticed that while there are similarities between the roles, there are also big differences.
Working in mental health, our “basic care” is often providing our patients with an outlet to talk about how they’re feeling and to being able to respond with sensitivity.
My favourite part of being on placement is spending time with patients and I am making the most of being able to do this while I’m studying.
Contrary to popular belief, this is not the only role of a nurse and there are countless other things that mental health nurses have to do to make sure they provide their patients with the best care. Without being able to manage risk effectively, secure funding, or write a thorough care plan our basic care would make no difference to our patients at all.
These important nursing duties have been completely overlooked by the people making these suggestions who don’t seem to fully understand what contemporary nursing entails.
There were 290 recommendations in the Francis Report but this is the one that seems to have created the most furore. One of the outcomes of the report says, and I quote, “failure was in part the consequence of allowing focus on reaching national access targets, achieving financial balance and seeking foundation trust status to be at the cost of delivering acceptable standards of care.”
As far as I’m aware this is most certainly not a nursing duty. So why is it that nurses are bearing the brunt of the Mid Staffs Enquiry? Management failures have been well documented in the reportage of the enquiry yet there is no mention of them having a year’s experience of delivering frontline care.
And what about the doctors, physios and OTs providing care, will they have to have a year’s experience of being a HCA first as well? Yet again, no mention of that.
The word “compassion” is thrown around a lot in discussions like these and this is another justification for having a year’s experience as a HCA. Working as a support worker is what inspired me to take the steps to becoming a qualified nurse. Unfortunately, I witnessed a lot of appalling care and a lot of people who quite frankly didn’t care about their patients. I couldn’t bear the thought that there are vulnerable people being “cared for” in this way. I don’t think being compassionate is a quality that can be taught and if someone isn’t compassionate I don’t think any amount of experience will change that.