Studying for your degree in nursing, you may have noticed that you’re a little different from the others freshers starting out this year. Watching the other students is like watching a nature documentary – the creatures crawl out of bed when you’re just getting home from a shift on placement.
They only go to lectures for a few hours a week, and sometimes they – get this – actually have time to go out once in a while. I know. It’s crazy. I don’t understand it either.
But nursing students are different in other ways, too. The average age of a student nurse is 30. That means that the average nursing student has probably come into nursing from a different career.
They’ve already been out in the world. Some of us have kids, partners, mortgages. But three years can be a long time and a daunting commitment. That’s why many students across the country study the PgDip – the postgraduate diploma in nursing.
“Just like everything else in the nursing world at the moment, the PgDip is under threat”
The PgDip is for people who already have a degree and an interest in nursing. It’s the normal three-year BSc nursing course, but squeezed into two years. While it sounds like a horrible, stressful idea, it’s actually a great way to get more nurses into the NHS.
The PgDip allows for smart, competent people, who don’t have the time or money for another three year degree, to get qualified and out into the workforce at high speed. It’s a great way to encourage more people into nursing.
But, just like everything else in the nursing world at the moment, the PgDip is under threat.
“Several of my classmates receive a bursary of just £80 a month, which is barely enough to cover their travel to and from lectures”
The bursary has been cut (thank you, Jeremy Hunt) and replaced with student loans. But if you’re studying the PgDip, you don’t qualify for another loan – you already got one on your previous degree, and unless you’re studying for a masters, the rules don’t allow for you to receive any student finance.
PgDips rely on the bursary, and I don’t know a single classmate of mine on the course who could get by without it.
The course is already tough. Fitting the entire first year of the nursing degree into your first term; having to write essays at level 7 – that’s masters standard, without actually gaining a masters at the end; having placements that are longer and closer together in order to qualify with enough practice hours in only two years.
“Despite the financial and emotional struggles, the passion for helping people always gets us through”
The whole thing is academically and mentally challenging, more so than we’ve ever experienced. What’s more, the reliance on bursaries means that every single one of us has to find time for a part-time job just to get by, and if the NHS bursary system stiffs you, you’re stuck.
Several of my classmates receive a bursary of just £80 a month, which is barely enough to cover their travel to and from lectures. They’re forced to move back home and live off the bank of mum and dad for another two years, sacrificing the independence they’d been hoping for when they last graduated.
These challenges are worth it. Nursing is our dream. Despite the financial and emotional struggles, the passion for helping people always gets us through. The PgDip means that thousands more nurses are qualifying every year, slowly chipping away at the national understaffing problem.
But that’s all about to change. Without the bursary, the PgDip is likely to disappear.
Without a student loan to cover costs, the PgDip just isn’t affordable. Universities are already reporting a slump in applications, and predicting that it won’t be long before the demand for the PgDip is gone, and the course stops being offered.
Eventually, the PgDip will vanish entirely, and take thousands of potential nurses with it.