So much has been said since the NHS bursary was scrapped. There is a petition for nurses to be paid the minimum salary started by John Worth but I wonder if it will be acknowledged.
The idea behind scrapping the NHS bursary was that nursing students would be like any other undergraduate student, but I am not sure if those who made that decision realise that nursing is not like most undergraduate courses.
Nursing involves 2,300 placement hours and while most of undergraduate courses finish by mid-June – giving students three months to work full time and earn money – we only have six weeks off.
I have also been wondering lately if those who make decisions and have come up with the idea of setting up apprenticeships courses, realise that all student nurses are in fact, apprentices? As apprentices, we all should get pay if not the minimum wage, at least an apprentice’s salary based on the actual hours that we complete during our placements.
”Maybe those who made the decisions could acknowledge the uniqueness of our status as nurses”
Unlike degrees, a large percentage of nursing students are mature. Many of us are also unpaid carers for family members or have children, so working full time is impossible and part-time employment is challenging due to placement hours, university workloads and family commitments.
Maybe those who made the decisions could acknowledge the uniqueness of our status as nurses in the making and give us a little token of appreciation in the way of a small compensation for our time, dedication and commitment to work. We work in an area where, according to all the latest reports, positions are increasingly being left vacant and nurses registration numbers are decreasing.
Maybe these statistics could improve if those involved in making the decisions would acknowledge the work and effort of those of us who want to be part of the NHS workforce despite all the challenges and difficulties. Care is our vocation and we may want to help those who cannot afford private care.
We have chosen a different path to those who have entered, or will be entering, apprenticeships programmes. However, we should still be able to enjoy the same flexibility that they have. Otherwise, the UK universities may start experiencing even lower numbers of students registering for nursing courses. Then the problem would shift to education and having to lay off teaching staff at the universities.
“Help us so that we can cope with our daily lives”
The problem with the decreasing number of students and registered nurses is not going to disappear. It is very likely to get worse, especially taking into account the fact that EU nurses are leaving their UK hospital posts due to the uncertainty that the Brexit has created.
Something needs to be done to encourage people to study nursing and working 2,300 hours for free does not seem to be very encouraging. Regardless of our supernumerary status, if we see our mentors and other staff members struggling to cope with their workload, we would give a hand with the basic tasks because helping is what nurses do.
Helping is our vocation, so all I ask of those who make the decisions is to give us an incentive. Help us so that we can cope with our daily lives while we keep on helping and assisting others to cope with their illnesses.
Julia Garcia is a second-year adult nursing student at Bournemouth University