Two weeks ago, the first of hopefully many schools of nursing signed up to Speak out Safely.
As the moderator of our weekly student twitter chats, I was thrilled to see the campaign finally making waves among higher education institutions. Although the vast majority of the student nurses we speak to on a regular basis have nothing but praise for their universities and placements, there’s always one or two who share with us their frustrations of raising concerns and not being listened to.
Those who regularly join our student nurse discussions strive for perfection in everything they do, but often remark that professionals they work with tell them this “won’t last” or that “they’ll learn what it’s really like”. Granted, they are likely to come up against budget constraints and short staffing once qualified, and probably before, but this idealised view of how healthcare should be makes them ideally placed to spot when things are wrong and patients are being put at risk.
But spotting a problem is not the same as doing something about it.
Although they tell us that they like to think they would raise concerns, students have many reasons not to. Top of the list is the fear that they won’t pass the placement. Rightly or wrongly, this fear gives mentors power over student nurses who may feel that if it came to their word against their mentor’s, that they would lose.
Another powerful reason to keep quiet is the worry that nothing will change. Speaking out about poor care takes guts and if a student felt that nothing could be gained from doing so then of course they will choose to keep their head down, get through the placement and vow never to apply for a job there.
By signing up to Speak out Safely, universities are sending a strong message to students, and potential students, that not only will their concerns be investigated but that they will support and believe them. When you’re saying things you know will make you unpopular, having someone on your side is invaluable.
We are asking universities to make it their new year resolution to sign up and display the SOS logo and pledge on their publicly available school of nursing webpage. Students should be safe to raise concerns and encouraged to play an active role in improving the health service.
Thank you to Oxford Brookes - Faculty of Health and Life Sciences for being the first school of nursing to sign up.