07 July 2016

10,000 more student nurses means serious concerns for mentors and placements

Changing student nurse funding from NHS bursary to student loan could create up to 10,000 additional student nurse places according to Government plans. However, there is a glaring lack of commentary on how placements will be provided and where the additional mentors will come from to support them.

In a recent #NurChat discussion on the real risks of removing the student nurse bursary, it was clear that the lack of forward planning to ensure both adequate mentor support and sufficient quality, hands-on placement opportunities are available presents real concern.

Both the placement setting and mentor support are crucial in ensuring student nurses are suitably prepared for their registered responsibilities, and a poor experience in either aspect can be severely detrimental. Without careful resource planning, student nurses and mentors are set to suffer with this added workload, which will most likely have an impact upon the quality of care received by patients.

An increased number of placement settings, professional development time for mentors and crucially, additional staffing to support the supernumerary status of all student nurses on placement will all be required. The supernumerary status of students is essential, not only for their learning but for the benefit of patients. Student nurses have previously reported being used as ‘a pair of hands’, but a greater concern is students providing unsupervised care that they have not yet been deemed competent to.

Until recently it was thought the student nurse bursary would be withdrawn across the UK. However, an imbalance in the future of student nurse funding was recently created when Scotland’s First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, announced Scotland would continue to offer the student nurse bursary. In her keynote speech at RCN Congress she stated that, ‘the guarantee I’ve given today is 100 per cent’. It’s now unclear as to whether that original figure of 10,000 additional student nurses is still accurate.

The RCN recently responded to the Department of Health consultation on the changes proposed for student nurses in England with some staggering survey results from their members. One of the notable figures is 80% of nurse educators leading courses and teaching students feel the bursary removal isn’t the right course of action (Source: RCN).

Not only do those leading student nurse courses feel replacing the bursary with a student loan is not the right move, but the additional placement and mentorship resources to support demand don’t appear to have been addressed at all. This is causing great concern for all involved in the student nurse journey.

#NurChat will return on 19th July at 8pm.