Questions bounced around the lecture theatre full of student nurses in 2016, “What does this mean for us?”, “I wouldn’t have done the nursing course if I could get paid to be a nursing associate” and “who will be responsible for them when they do meds?”
A year on and the nursing associates are several months into their journey of being employed on a ward, with one day a week in university for their foundation degree.
Once qualified, they will likely have a PIN number and be able to administer all drugs except IV routes. Nursing associates will be paid an increasing wage throughout their training on a specific ward and become a band 4 practitioner once completed.
Another change from September 2017 is that student nurses and midwives will now pay £9000 a year to train, as NHS bursaries are sadly a thing of the past. These cohorts will qualify with a £22,150 annual full time salary and approximately £30,000 of debt.
Many will not finish repaying the debt in full, with the last £7000 being wiped at the thirty year cut off. Others if part time may NEVER even meet the threshold for any repayments.
“It is vital to remember that fear is a natural response to the unknown.”
Many universities are doubling their yearly intake of fee paying students, with cohorts up to three hundred students, increasing the pressure on lecturers, placement administration and mentors themselves out in practice.
To manage this the NMC is making mentoring compulsory for all qualified nurses and midwives, which may cause concern for students who have already been through the daily/nightly dreads of working alongside a reluctant or cold mentor.
Nurses, regardless of whether their training was as an enrolled, diploma, project 2000 or undergraduate degree level nurse, will probably feel that their way was the right way.
We may all question why higher powers are interfering in the well-oiled machine that is the ward or community team, but it is vital to remember that fear is a natural response to the unknown, and nursing and midwifery is ever evolving alongside the scientific and holistic research that underpins it.
“This light we hold is challenged every day with increasingly poor staffing levels and the huge loss of experienced health professionals leaving the register.”
If we never changed anything, we would not know what worked and what did (and we may still be using egg whites and oxygen to treat pressure ulcers!). Without change, we would not know that with every 10% extra nurses that are qualified to degree level there is 7% reduction of patient death and we would not be able to welcome back the enrolled nurse, in the guise of the nursing associate.
I can understand how bursary-funded students may feel worried about the nursing associate role overlapping with theirs. Many have dedicated their lives to the course; leaving loved ones, pets, homes and decent salaries behind just to get their PIN.
With the increasing £££ racking up in my Student Loans Company invoice from previous study, I would have loved the idea of working and earning. (Perhaps I could have squeezed in a social life too on the side? What a luxury!).
“It is essential to remember that our spark will shine much brighter if we fully embrace change.”
With so many changes happening in the NHS, it can feel that what we know as ‘solid’ is suddenly slipping through our fingertips. Yet we must not forget that we are all united in our goal: to reduce suffering, to keep those we care for safe and to provide a glimmer of light in their days (and no doubt many, many nights..).
This light we hold is challenged every day with increasingly poor staffing levels, a growing population who are living longer with greater needs, and the huge loss of experienced health professionals leaving the register.
It is not a time to let new roles or ways of learning divide us.
You cannot truly learn to be a nurse, nursing associate or midwife, it is a vocation and part of your soul.
Therefore it is essential to remember that our spark will shine much brighter if we fully embrace change, and welcome new practitioners in whatever form. This way, they too have their chance to shine and become a part of the health teams that humbly and silently prop up society; 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.