the youth are in the streets!
Student nurses hit the headlines last week as Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, announced that in order to receive NHS funding, who currently pay for your fees and provide a means tested bursary, those who want to train in nursing will have to work as a support worker or a health care assistant first.
As a first year student nurse I know the effort and experience you have to put in to even be considered for a nursing place at university. I myself worked in various healthcare settings as a volunteer in the months leading up to my UCAS application and I know those around me did the same, with a small number getting the invaluable experience of working as a health care assistant (HCA). The interview process you have to go through to be accepted on a health course is vigorous and in-depth; despite Hunt making it sound like anyone can walk into it.
As for the expression that ‘nurses are too posh to wash’ from my experience, this is not true. On my first placement I washed, dressed, fed, changed and cared for patients as well as changing beds and cleaning bed space areas. Obviously as a student nurse I had more time for doing this than my mentor, a qualified nurse, as she had a lot more paperwork to do than me. However particularly on nights or if support staff numbers were low then she would always tend to the needs of the patients and rightly so. In most cases it is not because nurses think they’re above support workers but that staffing levels are simply too low. With nurses qualified to do more than support workers and HCA’s then it’s inevitable that sometimes they have to pass jobs onto them. The brilliant thing about being a student nurse is that you are able to learn all the necessary skills on the medical side of nursing, such as observations, reading machines and administrating medicines but also that you know how to change a bed and feed a child.
I think the idea that student nurses should have to work for a year as a support worker before being able to train is simply a way to try and dodge the real problem within nursing, which is staffing levels. With all student nurses participating in some kind of healthcare experience prior to being accepted forcing them to become a support worker to receive NHS funding is going to cause more problems within the healthcare system. Firstly, the government isn’t going to create more support worker jobs but simply push out those who aren’t interested in becoming a nurse. In addition to this, by bringing in people who only want the job in order to progress you are cutting the continuity of support workers massively, with the majority only staying for one year.
When it boils down to it, this is just another way of the government trying to shift the blame from them and their cuts onto public sector workers. Student nurses get enough experience and what is needed is more qualified nurses on wards so that they can spend more time with patients rather than trying to care for 10 patients at once.
By Cara T, Sheffield Revsoc