I am going to put my hand up and say I don’t know as much about politics as I feel I should.
I took an AS level course in Government and Politics but that was 14 years ago. Both the political canvass and my memory have changed somewhat since then, and many people will not have had the luxury of any education in politics.
At the time of writing, we have two weeks until a general election. Do you know who you’re voting for? Why you are voting for them? What will they do for the NHS and its nurses?
My next module requires us to do work related to policy and politics. However, this won’t start until after the election. So I have taken it upon myself to start looking into the current political minefield.
I don’t know who to trust or what to believe. The more election debates I watch on the TV, the more confused I get.
I have used Google to help me find quizzes to see how I lean politically. I am reading through party manifestos, RCN information and using Nursing Times’ election coverage to help guide me.
I read in a tabloid publication about secret plans to cut nurses whilst another party says they will have a nursing recruitment drive. And I have read pledges stating cash will be poured in to the NHS. I think when it comes down to it, I have trust issues - will they do what they declare in the manifesto when it comes down to it? And where does any extra cash actually come from?
I have recently realised that it does matter. We may be student nurses, but the time we spend on the course goes so quickly and before you know it, we will be out there.
I speak to staff who say how much the current cuts are hurting patient care; I can see that in mental health and I’m sure it’s the same across branches. Student nurses have a great deal of uncertainty when out on placement. I have experienced placements where morale is low, but I have experienced placements where morale has been incredibly high too. On my last placement in a general hospital, I visited A&E for mental health assessments. I have seen queues of ambulances lining up outside and this scares me, professionally and personally.
What is it that I want to see?
I want to see a change in the level of support for student nurses.
I am struggling financially, having to do part-time work because my bursary doesn’t even cover my rent, and my loan is even less in final year. I would not be able to do my nursing training without the financial support of my partner. I think a living wage is important for students out on placement.
My anxiety increases when I go out on placement as I don’t really have the space to breathe with extra part time work on top.
Will the future government give this much-needed financial support?
You may not feel like it affects you at this stage but at some point it will. You need to know what is going on politically to help guide your practice. You should take some time to read the party manifestos instead of getting drawn in by glossy flyers coming through your door.
You need a keen sense of self, of your values and beliefs, and let this shape your views on what you want to see happen in our future government.
I want to know what kind of NHS I am graduating into. Will there be jobs or will they continue to be cut? I want to know who is going to stop nurses ‘burning out’ because of a lack of staff and other resources? I want to know who will look after our nurses, to keep the ones we have and recruit ones who will stay.
In the past I have voted but not felt fully informed. But then I felt it didn’t matter as much. I graduate in 9 months and I now realise that the the future of nursing provision is in our hands.
What is my decision? I’m still reading so that I can be sure to make as much of an informed decision as I can.
If you have any top tips or reading for any politically naïve student nurses like me, I would be interested to read your comments.
Becky Kidman is Student Nursing Times’ mental health branch editor