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Younger students need encouragement

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'For every young student who can be stroppy or difficult, I know a dozen who are helpful, sweet and dedicated'

I feel a lot of sympathy for younger students.

We oldies (I’m 37) are able to articulate our collective grievances openly but the younger generations go pretty much unheard and, when they do get a hearing, they’re all too easily dismissed as ‘just teenagers’, with all that phrase implies – over-emotional, noisy, troublesome and unreliable.

That’s not my experience. Of course, you can always find a teenager who’s a pain in the neck but, in general, they are no different from generations that went before. For every young student who can be stroppy or difficult, I know a dozen who are helpful, sweet and dedicated. If they seem different from my own contemporaries, it’s because the world is different.

Even when I was young, not an age ago, things were simpler – fewer drugs, no personal computers, no internet, no knife culture. Now society has lurched sideways and it is easier for youth to lose its bearings.

In the special world of nursing, an enormous burden of responsibility is put on young people. Insofar as this consists of training them to respect patients and perform to their optimum as carers, it is perfectly laudable. But the pressure to perform well in exams and on placement – when faced with death, suffering and pain, perhaps for the first time – induces high levels of stress and calls for patience and encouragement from senior staff. In this respect I have encountered numerous examples of good practice. But why must it be a lottery? Why is it not the norm?

Some staff I have met seem to regard it as below their station to speak to young students, far less praise or encourage them. In a caring profession, I find this bewildering, even counter-productive. Perhaps someone can explain it to me.

Lesley McHarg is a third-year nursing student in Scotland. Arabella Sinclair-Penwarden is a staff nurse in Devon.

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