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'Is it really student nurses' responsibility to whistleblow?'


Can you advise this student nurse?

“I was really surprised to see headlines this week saying that student nurses need to be trained to raise concerns.

“I know it’s our duty to say if we see poor care or abuse and I absolutely would, but surely if this sort of thing is ongoing on the placement then it’s up to regular staff to do something about it? Is it really fair to be putting this on student nurses?

“I have seen patients being spoken to in a way that I didn’t think was right but their care overall was fine - it never occurred to me to “whistleblow”. How can you say where the line is? And surely ward managers are the ones who should be looking out for poor care, not student nurses.

“Again, I know we should speak up when something isn’t right but it feels as though student nurses are being asked to police placements, which just isn’t right.

“I’d love to hear other people’s thoughts on this.”

Please use the comments section below to share your advice

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Readers' comments (15)

  • I agree with you. I don't start my training for another 2 wks, but have previously been a student midwife. We were advised to speak up if we saw practice that was unacceptable. However, as a student, we were often made to feel that we should just keep quiet and not rock any boats - especially if it was in a trust where we were hoping to work once qualified. I think as we are learning the most current, up-to-date evidence-based practice, we are sometimes better placed to know current best practice. As students, we are responsible, not accountable, so we do have a level of responsibility to blow the whistle, but I would go via my tutors.

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  • I think it is absolutely your place to speak up. I am a first year adult nursing student who had to whilstle blow in my first week of placement. It was not nice, but it had to be done. Yes, ideally the other staff will have picked up on any issues and raised concerns themselves but if for whatever reason they haven't then you should. As for the line, I think this is where your mentor comes in. If you see things you are not happy about, then discuss it with your mentor or with another nurse you trust. Sometimes you may have seen something that is distressing but not necessarily wrong, and your mentor may be able to clarify that for you. Some proceedures are uncomfortable and upsetting for the patient for example but the risk/benefit balance may justify having it done. There may also be stylistic differences, I know I speak to patients and behave in a certain way that I feel is the most appropriate and somepeople have a different way and that is fine. But abuse is never fine and at the end of the day I think you have to ask yourself "would this be good enough for my mum/dad/whatever?" and if the answer is no then it is not good enough.

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  • I disagree, its not only the responsibility of regular staff to highlight care that is putting patients at risk. Student Nurses are bound by an abbreviated version of the NMC code to uphold the reputation of the profession and work towards the standards set by the NMC.

    In all respects these are still patients in your care even though your mentor will have full accountability, you still have responsibility to the patient.

    I would argue it would be the same for others, medical students, healthcare assistants etc. We all need to stand up and protect those in our care from risk of harm. If a student sees something that is extremely worrying but no one else witnesses it, and then they don't say then the person who is putting the patient at risk will be allowed to continue putting patients at risk. It can be a vicious circle, what if someone else then witnesses a similar action and doesn't say anything? How long can it go on for?

    These are concerns highlighted by the Francis report. I understand the difficulty of this because I was in a similar situation as a student nurse and fought with my thoughts over wether to mention anything. You will get the sense that you are "just a student" but you are not just a student! you will one day be a registered professional, your thoughts and opinions should matter and your concerns should be listened to and acted upon sensitively.

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  • communication is one of the core skills of all healthcare workers!

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  • Isn't this what the whole problem is? Why people in the profession seem to have lost their way and don't give the best care that they can. If someone is feeling low or dejected, unsupported or just doesn't like the job anymore, shouldn't they move on instead of causing potential harm and stress to the service user and to other staff. It is, I am sure everyone's responsibility to whistle blow, and all should be protected when doing it. This is indeed a very sad indictment of our current system. We all need more support.

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  • I am a student and have only yesterday began the process of reporting unacceptable practice in my placement. I have received excellent support, initially, from a SCN outwith the facility and next week will address the staffs' practice and professionalism with the Care Manager. When unsure of what to do I was advised by a Senior Staff Nurse, "Do what you think is right" and that is what we all need to ask ourselves, as carers, "Is this practice right or wrong?"

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  • It's everybody's responsibility. Standing up against the status quo is the dilemma.

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  • if you voice concerns which are not listened to it is up to you to put that person in their place and tell them it is their job to listen and that is what they are being paid for!

    I agree with BonAndrey above. such behaviour must not be tolerated.

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  • BonAndrey | 21-Feb-2015 11:08 pm

    I hope the 'you' in my above comment 9.26 am is taken to be you in the plural and not personal. this is one of the pitfalls of trying to communicate in the English language where there is only one form of the personal pronoun which can easily be misinterpreted lead to misunderstandings and cause offence! maybe 'one' would have been a better choice?

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  • @Anonymous | 22-Feb-2015 12:25 pm

    I'm just reflecting on the topic. No beef against you bro.

    NT comments need a reply button somewhere so I don't get lectured randomly on my understanding of the English language.

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