My message to future nursing staff

 Dame Donna Kinnair 14 Aug 2020 Chief Executive and General Secretary

Dame Donna Kinnair shares her message to the new intake of nursing students.

I can barely remember getting my A-level results, but I can certainly remember the agonising wait for my children to get theirs.

This year was a very different experience than my own, or my family’s. Even though this year’s A-level students didn’t sit exams, they have finished their studies despite real disruption and their hard work should be acknowledged and recognised. 

School leavers have a choice to make now, and I think the case for a career in nursing is a clear one. It is an incredibly varied, rewarding and exciting profession - one which is trusted by the public above any other. 

The good news is that the number of people accepted onto nursing courses in England has risen by 14% on last year with 18,250 accepted for the 2020/21 academic year. The number of Scottish students accepted onto nursing courses in Scotland reached a record 3,040 last week – an increase of over 11%. We could well see the same in Wales and Northern Ireland. 

It’s heartening to see an increase in numbers of people accepted onto nursing courses but the figures expose the problem of student funding in England.

The increase is far below what is needed to address the nearly 40,000 nursing vacancies in England. Nurses are essential to health and care; for this reason, the Health Secretary shouldn’t be content with this modest increase. Matt Hancock needs to aim for more. 

Even with the introduction of the £5,000 living grant for all nursing students, and the recent announcement of increased apprenticeships funding, investment is urgently required so nursing students don’t have to pay their own tuition fees. 

A universal living maintenance grant is required that reflects actual student need. It should also remove student debt for all those who have taken out student loans to pay fees since 2017. 

Students choosing our profession - take note. You have joined a fantastic profession. There may be times in your studies when it doesn’t feel that way. It’s a really challenging course but the RCN is here to support you every step of the way. 

The day I qualified as a nurse remains one of the proudest days of my life. You have been accepted onto your course because you have what it takes. Believe in yourself. 

The RCN is working hard to make the profession our students will join one day as welcoming as it should be. A recent survey of our members found some were considering leaving the profession because they don’t feel valued. We’re putting pressure on the Government to offer nurses an early and meaningful pay rise and to invest properly in nursing. 

The nursing students who have already been through their course will be starting their nursing career next month and will still be nursing in the 2050s, if not longer. The UK governments must value our current and future nursing staff by properly investing in our profession and paying nursing staff fairly. 

Dame Donna Kinnair

Dame Donna Kinnair

Chief Executive & General Secretary

Prior to her appointment as Acting Chief Executive & General Secretary, Dame Donna was Director of Nursing, Policy and Practice and worked with UK-wide RCN staff to drive and implement RCN professional nursing, policy and practice strategy.

Before joining the RCN, Donna held various roles, including Clinical Director of Emergency Medicine at Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals Trust.
Donna advised the PM’s Commission on the future of Nursing and Midwifery in 2010 and served as nurse/child health assessor to the Victoria Climbié Inquiry.

Page last updated - 14/08/2020