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'Student nurses aren’t any less compassionate than nurses trained under the old system'

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Student nurses are under attack. We lack compassion, we’re too posh to wash for daring to seek a degree and we’re blamed for care failings on wards we’re not yet staff on …

We’ve become scapegoats for a government who want to be seen to be doing something about scandals that have little to do with current nurse education. 

If you’re anything like me, you’ll find this barrage difficult to stomach and ultimately disheartening. Though, sometimes the worst attacks come from qualified nurses.

I’ve never heard our medical colleagues debating whether or not they should attend university

Here in Britain we’re part of the only profession that debates over whether or not greater education is a good thing. I don’t know about you, but I’ve never heard our medical colleagues debating whether or not they should attend university. Do teachers or social workers bicker over whether they should be trained on the job?

University education standardises our training and gives us a separate environment to discover the ‘why’ as to the ‘how’ of caring for individuals.

It teaches student nurses not just technical skills, but how to think and learn so that we may develop and continue to learn long past graduation and it provides a separate, safe environment for students outside the hospital, key when reporting elements of poor care.

The social aspects of university, where almost half of us meet our life-long friends and even spouses, is another huge factor for many in deciding where and what to study. Taking nurses away from the university environment could detract talented individuals from choosing a nursing career.

Ultimately though, and perhaps most importantly, a degree helps put nurses on a par with other professions, who let’s not forget, are almost all paid far greater salaries than that of our field.

Student nurses these days aren’t any less compassionate than the nurses trained under the old system

Additionally, student nurses these days aren’t any less compassionate than the nurses trained under the old system. There’s simply no research or evidence to support such a view.

If anything students these days have less drawing them into the career they’ve chosen. Unlike in the past, they are given a bursary and not paid for shifts, meaning the financial constraints on a trainee nurse are substantial. Qualified staff may argue that’s because we’re supernumerary, but as I’m sure many of my fellow students will inform you, that simply isn’t the case on too many wards where the student becomes an extra pair of hands.

So you’ve really got to want to be a nurse, to follow it all through.

Many mentors’ poor view of nurse training comes down to a poor experience with a student they’ve worked ith, one who simply wasn’t up to scratch.

A bad experience however with one individual doesn’t constitute a failure in the entire way students are taught. Tarring all with the same brush achieves little because when it comes down to it, we student nurses agree with qualified staff when it comes to poor care from our colleagues at university. Some simply aren’t suitable for our field.

Blaming their degree education, and along with it the talented students enrolled on such a course, only damages the morale of those who will go on to become your colleagues. It’s no different to the blame inflicted by the media on our entire profession after the Mid-Staffordshire enquiry.

It’s time to put the issue to bed over whether or not we should have degrees

No one is saying that nurse education is perfect. Our courses differ across the nation and I have little doubt that the government’s new scheme requiring students to work as a healthcare assistant for a year before being given funding will throw up entirely new issues.

Regardless, it’s time to put the issue to bed over whether or not we should have degrees. The answer is simply, unequivocally, of course we should. It’s time we stopped debating among ourselves over a trivial issue and instead fight the larger, more important battles our profession now faces.

Degree, diploma or otherwise, we’re nurses. It’s time to stand together.

Grant Byrne is a second year student nurse studying at the University of Glasgow.

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Readers' comments (1)

  • Iam first year student and absolutely agree with you Byrne.Thank you for pointing this out.

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