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'How competent do you feel as a student nurse?'


Are we given good enough training to be competent as qualified nurses? Mikey Whitehead, children’s student nurse editor, shares his views …

Competence is certainly a C worth having in my opinion, as I think all nurses should be confident and capable (there are another two to add to the C list!) in their roles as professional and leading care givers in modern day healthcare.

If we are identifying competence as being an aspect of nursing we must all practice, then we should ask, is our training good enough?

Are student nurses given enough time on the wards, in busy departments and surgeries? Are students given enough resources for them to be fully understanding of their role and competent enough to work effectively and independently by the time they reach the end of their three years of nurse training?

There was a recent twitter chat hosted by the Student Nursing Times discussing the media’s portrayal of student nurses. Many who attended the chat agreed that the media had been harsh and at times critical in the past when it came to portraying nurses in a positive light. I constantly find myself asking the same question, why is this?

Although positive stories do not sell newspapers, I recently concluded that it could be because the media and public do no think we are competent enough. Are they right? Is this justified?

After all, the public only ever hear about when things go wrong in our job, or someone somewhere has made a crucial mistake that lead to terrible ramifications. I for one feel compelled to seek out answers and try to unite with my fellow nurse colleagues in fighting for what is needed. But what is needed?

Is the answer degree training? Or to demand more staff, from an already financially squeezed NHS and government? My only hope is that Jane Cumming’s initiative of the 6Cs will be enough to turn things round for our NHS, and propell us back to the top of the list in people’s good books.

Maybe degree training is necessary. Look at doctor’s for example. They undergo seven year’s medical training and do not ever seem to be identified as being incompetent.

We all know how tough and demanding nurse training is. Is three years really enough time for students to become competent enough in their role?

Get in touch and tell us what you think.




Readers' comments (7)

  • I truly believe that nursing should be a degree. My main reason for this is because it enables to know not only what we're doing, but why we're doing it.

    In three years you will not learn all you need to know about nursing, the same as you won't learn all you need to know about medicine on a seven year degree. Nursing is one of those careers where you'll be constantly learning on the job. Confidence (and competence) come with experience. I would say that goes for pretty much any career you can think of.

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  • Natalie Moore | 18-Jun-2013 1:51 pm

    good comment. no matter how experienced one is new situations will always arise and great adaptability to cope with them is important. this goes for any thing one undertakes and life in general as well.

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  • Aaron

    Natalie is right, our training needs to reflect our need to be able to evolve and adapt independently in our future careers, and I think our degree training is achieving that.

    However, I also think that there needs to be more contact hours assigned to drilling practical skills. Given the time and resource constraints on wards, it makes much more sense to drill practical skills in universities skills/simulation rooms as much as reasonably possible. I feel the only skill that was adequately drilled at my uni was wound dressing for the OSCEs...and that was something of a pathetic preparation for the multiple fasciotomies I redressed later on. I'd have much rather focused on practical skills in my second year, rather than public health. (While important, I think needs to be reprioritised to later in the training cycle)

    Doctors do get called incompetent alot too, however their union is alot stronger than ours so the government can't hit them over the head quite as easily.

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  • Totally agree with the above posts. The only problem is, on placement wards are often so short staffed you end up doing lots of "basic" care which I love doing (and now I feel really competent at moving and handling), however I'm missing out on doing drug rounds and catheters etc cos it's so busy. I've had really good mentors but when it's so busy, I often felt like I had to help with personal care rather than ask to go on a drug round because otherwise patients would be waiting for ages and I couldn't leave them to wait for other staff when I could just help them straight away rather than going on a drug round. It's so hard sometimes!

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  • Michael Whitehead

    Is the phrase "too posh to wash" aimed at all degree nurses? Or is this just the media's tactic of turning nurses against each other?
    I only mention this because whenever I speak to other nurses about all degree training and what they think they often answer with this phrase. I don't personally think it applies at all. I know some great nurses who are degreed trained but an equal amount that aren't!

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  • i understand the need to develop as professionals. I agree with the degree training. However, people like myself and many others accessed the course only having 5 a-c at GCSE. for the degree course you are required to have A levels which many great nurses nowadays dont have. If you limit the course to nurses who can complete the degree course and not the diploma, the nursing world will loose out on a lot of practically competent nurses. Education at a degree level in my opinion is not the answer.

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  • Michael Whitehead

    Well said, anonymous

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