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The RCN has valuable information and guidance for students on placement  which helps answer key questions on raising and escalating concerns about staffing, supernumerary status, and more. 

WHY should I raise a concern on placement?

It’s important to remember that it’s in everyone’s best interests – patients, staff and managers – to identify when something isn’t right, learn from this and make improvements. 

When you become a registered nurse, raising and escalating concerns is a central clause in the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) Code, which says nurses must “act without delay if you believe that there is a risk to patient safety or public protection” (NMC, 2018) so as a student it’s never too soon.

HOW do I report a concern?

You should initially raise your concern with your practice supervisor/practice assessor, or the clinical manager of the practice learning environment. 

If for any reason you’re reluctant to raise a concern with clinical staff, you should follow your higher education institution’s raising concerns guidance, seek support from the RCN and raise your concern with the academic lecturer designated to your practice learning experience. 

The earlier an expression of concern is made, the easier it is to take action 

Concerns must be raised verbally with your academic lecturer and you should keep a written, factual record of the events at the time of the event – a copy of which will be placed in your file. 

You may be asked at a later date to write a factual statement with the help of your academic lecturer and/or the RCN. 

Remember: the earlier an expression of concern is made, the easier it is to take action.

WHAT IF I follow these steps and the issue is still not resolved?

You should feel able to raise concerns without detriment and should receive timely feedback. If your concerns remain unresolved, speak to your supervisor/tutor as soon as possible and please contact the RCN for advice

Read more RCN guidance 

The RCN has created a useful flowchart poster to help staff and students decide whether to raise a concern and when to escalate it.

Download the poster here and put it up at your university/placement. 

‘You’re not alone’

Lucy Hayes, RCN Students Committee Chair, says: “Don’t forget the importance of feedback at the end of your placement. If there are things that were wrong don’t just think: ‘ahh I’ll skip that bit and move on’.

"I know there is often fear of rocking the boat, but remember you’re not alone – we’re all in this together.

“It’s vital we speak up to create positive change for the future – this can only happen if we say when things aren’t right and when there are staffing issues. You need to think: are you doing something because of them being short staffed or are you doing it for your learning?

Don't be afraid and try not to let things overwhelm you 

“There is the feeling that because everywhere is short staffed, nothing can be done by raising it, but we can’t allow this to be normalised. I know it can feel like you’re letting patients down – but you need to protect your learning.

"By raising staffing concerns you’re protecting patients, your learning, your colleagues, and the whole future of our profession.”

Suzanne Davies, Professional Nursing Committee student representative and RCN Students Committee Vice Chair, adds: “We fully understand just how difficult it can be for students to raise concerns for fear of failure or that their university won’t be supportive – the anxiety is real. 

“Staff are often so busy, and students are not sure where to turn or who to discuss concerns with, but your students committee and your RCN reps are here for you and working on this to make sure you feel supported. 

“Don’t be afraid and try your best not to let things overwhelm you. If there is an issue, we need to all find the courage to help make a change.”

Supernumerary status on the RCN Congress agenda

Come and join the debate online or in person at RCN Congress 2022, the largest event in the nursing calendar running from 5-9 June.

At this year's Congress the RCN Students Committee are leading a resolution calling on RCN Council to lobby for the protection of supernumerary status for nursing students.

To view the livestream of debates – including this one – during Congress, please book your place and select the "online" option. If you're able to attend the event in person, even better!

Congress provides a unique opportunity for delegates to debate key issues around nursing practice that shape the RCN’s future work.

This year's in-person event will take place at the Scottish Event Campus in Glasgow and is free for members to attend.

We hope to see you there.

More information

Join our campaign for safe staffing across the UK

We're calling for safe and effective care to be enshrined in law in each UK country. 

Read the RCN Nursing Workforce Standards

The RCN's Nursing Workforce Standards are the first national blueprint for tackling the nursing staff shortage levels across the UK. They set the standard for excellent patient care and nursing support in all settings, and all UK countries. In line with standard 2 of the RCN Nursing Workforce Standards, all nursing students must be supernumerary when in training.

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