In a recent online poll, run by the Student Nurse Project, the question was asked of student nurses - have you experienced episodes of anxiety and depression since commencing your course? Within 20 minutes, over 100 people answered – Yes.
This course, this career, it is tough, and its one which invokes passion in every field. The most incredible nurses, students and lecturers fight fiercely as advocates for their patients or students; they push for better care, they work tirelessly to ensure holistic, evidence-based care is provided for everyone.
But is it enough for the powers that be to simply acknowledge that it's difficult?
I love my job, it's everything I ever wanted to be, and as I approach the end, on my management placement, I really feel as if I’ve come home. I’ve had the most incredible experiences, I’ve laughed, I’ve cried, I’ve struggled, I’ve soared. I love nursing, I love studying. But wouldn’t it be an incredible thing to keep improving things for future students? To listen to the voices of students and make changes which would positively impact the future workforce.
Maybe if I share my story, it may add some perspective and clarity to the situation I’m attempting to discuss. So, big deep breath and here we go.
I'm a single parent. I became a single parent during my first year as a student nurse after leaving an abusive relationship after 9 years. I study in Wales and so am lucky enough to still receive a bursary. And whilst I appreciate that this is an enviable situation for many of my friends studying over the border, and it opens up a whole new debate on the efficacy of a means tested method of funding, the simple fact is - this does not provide me with enough money to run my little family of two. I also rely on a top up from student finance, and have to work alongside studying to keep us going.
I know mine is not an isolated case, and a large number of students are in the same position. But do the government really understand the pressures this causes? Reflecting back, what do I wish I’d known at the beginning? Just how exhausted I’d be? The impact it would have on my child? Because it does have an impact.
I would love it if a Government representative, someone who makes decisions about how our courses are run, about the amount of funding students get, about the support for students' well-being was approached, and could come and shadow one of us for a week. Not just 37.5 hours a week on placement – learning; working towards getting outcomes achieved; learning to critically think and make evidence based decisions. But also sometimes working 20 hours on top of this, to pay childcare costs, or because there’s a school trip or classmates birthday to pay for, or the snack money bill is creeping up or just that they need a new uniform. And then finding time to plan, research for and write an assignment. And then in between that, if you could find a few extra minutes to wash and iron uniforms, make packed lunches and help with homework. (And I’m sorry social life, you’re what’s had to be sacrificed in order I achieve all the above)
So there it is, my challenge and open invitation, come and meet with us, talk to us and find out how to not only recruit but retain your future workforce…..