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'There just aren't enough hours in the day to earn the money I need to survive'


This month, I have been mostly selling my shoes. And jackets, jeans, some speakers that came with my car…. Anything really, to be able to afford to get to placement.

Rachael Starkey Student Nursing Times editor

Rachael Starkey is Student Nursing Times’ child branch student editor

When I was interviewed for my course, I was warned – twice - about the high costs of travel involved in the course, but like many others on the course, I really didn’t understand the full impact this could have. We can get sent all over Kent for our placements and Kent is big.

The placement I’m currently on costs me £40 a week in petrol and just a few days before I started the trust announced that they were no longer issuing student parking permits due to funding issues, so now it also costs me £5 a shift to park there.

“there are just not enough hours in the day to earn the money I need to survive”

So, I have my £450 a month bursary, my rent is £375, and my travel comes to £220. Is it just me or do those numbers just not add up? And that’s before I’ve had anything to eat.

Yes, like most other student nurses I work alongside on my course; I have two jobs, one agency and one flexi, the hours I work each week would upset my tutor no end, but there are just not enough hours in the day to earn the money I need to survive.

So what’s the answer?

Is it really true that a nursing degree is becoming accessible only to those who have some financial support? I can’t see how a single, independent adult can really be expected to get through the course without coming out massively in debt, but hey at least once I’m qualified I’ll get a wage, right?

Right… a wage that I’m watching decrease in real terms every year, a wage I will barely be able to live off let alone start to pay back my debts.

A new staff member just started working in my placement area who moved here from another part of the country. She qualified two years ago and has been unable to find a job until recently as there just weren’t enough jobs for graduates in the area she wanted to live in (she’s an excellent nurse by the way). So, she got the job here, moved over and planned to live in nursing accommodation at the hospital until she found her feet. Four months later and she is still in nursing accommodation - a small single room with a creaky bed, rats and mould in the kitchen, in a block shared with an ever-changing bunch of students - because she can’t find anywhere she can afford to rent on her wage. And that’s in a fairly deprived area in the south, not in London, or Manchester, or anywhere that I might dream of heading off to when I qualify. What hope is there?!

“What hope is there?!”

When the nurse in question was telling me all this, one of the others piped in and pointed out that if you want to be a nurse, you need “a man at home” who can pay the bills. Now, forgive me but I can’t imagine myself ever having a man at home (out on his surfboard/playing guitar/posing with a diet coke is fine) who I rely on to support me while I pursue a challenging, exciting career.

So what do I do? Keep struggling? Go bankrupt when I qualify? Move to Australia?

This profession will lose many excellent nurses if it does not start to stand up for itself, work as a group to challenge the constant disrespect shown by politicians, and start to demand a wage that enables one to live at least *slightly* over the breadline.


Rachael Starkey is Student Nursing Times’ student editor for child branch


Readers' comments (10)

  • Wow what a testimony . You have captured reality for our upcoming profession. I have worked as a nurse for thirty plus years and am supported by my husband as the main income. Perhaps had I chosen not to have children my path could have been very different. We are undervalued as a profession because there are too many of us needed to deliver the essential part of the whole care process. We need to value our work and stand together until we do that no one will take any notice

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  • Charging student nurses £5/day to park at thier placement? Sickening and shameful.

    I would contact my MP, my councillor, my local paper, my Union - and anyone else who'd listen - to to highlight this injustice

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  • I trained 25 years ago, and we were paid as nursing students by the Health Authority, given subsidised accommodation on the hospital grounds, and transported between all the hospital sites by the authority in designated transport. Oh, and all of us had jobs at the end of our training.
    But then came "progress".
    Sorry, but I could not afford to train today, nor would I recommend my children to be nurses in today's NHS.
    And for shame that the very people that benefited from this type of training across Britain, as I did, are the ones who have made it so difficult for tomorrows would be carers to get the adequate resources they so richly deserve.

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  • putting so much unnecessary strain and hardship on our student nurses is only going to exacerbate the crisis of the shortages and cause loss of some of the most promising candidates. It is very short sighted.

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  • tinkerbell

    Rachel, hang in there, if you can. Sounds like bloody mission impossible financially. At the moment we are heading towards education and healthcare being geared up for those who are wealthy. Unfortunately the rug has been whipped out from underneath those who aspire to having anything more than living on the bread line.

    Unfortunately as Tony Benn RIP said 'every generation has to fight for its democracy'.

    We cannot rely on what previous generations achieved for 'us'.

    I hope you can get through, it is a sad, sad day for all of us when our best and our brightest are forced out of being able to care for others, who are only trying to give to society rather than take.

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  • tinkerbell | 2-Apr-2014 10:28 am

    excellent comment

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  • i didnt work during my nursing degree, i was lucky enough to be supported, i would never have got a 1st class if i had worked as there was not much time to study anyway. i just gave up my social life for 3 years

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  • Anonymous | 2-Apr-2014 12:45 pm

    well done and hope you are making up for it now.

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  • I was in the exact same boat. I was working 26 hours per week to get by and I actually felt like I was handling it really well and was managing to have a great time and enjoy myself throughout my studies. Unfortunately a PEF thought this was too much and managed to get the university to give me the ultimatum of cut down my weekly working hours to no more than 11 or step off the programme. Needless to say I decided to continue with my studies but Ive had to take an IVA as I'm no longer able to cover my monthly expenses.

    It's highly doubtful that this PEF or any of the staff members at my university realise the full impact their decisions made on me and my life, not just currently but in my future. I think that not only should students be better supported to complete these programmes but they should be able to manage their own lives how ever they are able too, as long as it doesn't affect their fitness to practice or academic abilities!

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  • it is so nice to have a fellow student point out the worries of my first placement, I have just started and am yet to find work and know several students who are worse off than myself due to there parents income although they are living away form home, even with a student loan it is hard to support your self and find a happy study, work, play and social life balance.

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