As a nurse, particularly in the UK , you are seen as the heroes and backbone of the NHS. The work you do is unmeasurable and the hours that you put in are selfless.
As human beings, nurses are on the frontline, giving vital day to day care that in honesty, keep the hospital running, keeps the wards running and most importantly, keep patients alive. They are seen as martyrs and as a student nurse, I see first hand the pressures that these nurses go through.
This however does not condone or justify a flawed and failing system currently in place used to train student nurses. The abhorrent approach towards student nurses who are, arguably the future of the NHS should be greatly frowned upon and challenged.
I myself have experienced a culture of bullying during my training. I have witnessed countless students leave and the reason behind this isn’t the stress of dealing with patients, in fact that is far from the truth, they leave because of the bullying, disrespect and condescending nature of the nurses and other members of staff on the ward who are supposed to be training them. From my own experience and from what I’ve been told there is racism, bullying and above all there is a severe lack of empathy from the staff surrounding you.
As a student nurse on a new placement, you are given a mentor who is a registered nurse that has also undergone training to be a mentor. You then spend a number of weeks with this individual on the ward or placement you’ve been allocated and you learn from that mentor by working with them or other colleagues such as healthcare support workers or other nurses. Once that placement has reached halfway mark, you have a formative assessment which you either pass on all fronts or fail some areas, you then form a plan on how to deal with that and work on it so that you are able to pass your summative assessment and complete that placement.
On paper, it seems like a practical and efficient way to train a student and obtain the most hands on experience.
Unfortunately, that isn’t the case. We don’t live in an ideal world and there are personalities, opinions and various factors that could cause friction between two people, which is normal of course but should not be a hindrance in a ‘professional’ setting. It does however, often act as a hindrance. All students should go to placement with intent to learn. A mentor should facilitate that learning but there are individuals who are not fit to be mentors. They may be phenomenal nurses but being a mentor is a different experience completely.
A mentor should be caring, supportive, compassionate, professional, empathetic, respectful, constructive and honest. What I have witnessed in my two years as a student, through my own experience and what I have discussed with others is the complete opposite. Students have been bullied, targeted and left distraught by these very individuals who are meant to be mentors as well as other members of staff.
They have been failed and put through emotional and psychological stress, not because they are incapable of being excellent nurses but because they have been put in a horrible, seemingly professional environment and left there to deal with everything thrown at them.
I have a tough skin, I’m very aware that life isn’t easy and there is a struggle with most things but the treatment towards student nurses in some areas cannot be tolerated. I have met amazing people who have been mentally scarred by this hostile working environment and end up physically and psychologically unwell.
This is not okay. This has to be addressed. Bullying cannot be tolerated in the NHS or private sector by any means.
Please do not misinterpret what I have said, this hopefully is not the experience of every student nurse but for me and others that I have encountered, this is a daily struggle. You learn to deal with it and move on but as a mental health advocate and someone who has been a strong voice in my community for over ten years, I know better than to let behaviour like this continue. No one deserves to be treated this way especially when there is a genuine need for more nurses in the UK.
What needs to happen
1. There needs to be more attention given to students in placement and an accurate account of their treatment during that placement that will be looked at and dealt with effectively so that negative behaviour will not continue.
2. There has to be clear learning goals for students on placement on a daily basis so that they are able to reach their objectives as a matter of utmost importance.
3. There should be a private and confidential whistleblowers service for all student nurses so that they have someone to speak to if they feel they are being mistreated.
4. There must be a revised, realistic and practical structure put in place for all placements in the case of being too unwell to attend a shift. Certain placements are unrealistic with their procedures for reporting illness and that should be addressed.
5. In the same way student nurses have to be accountable when they are failed for not reaching specific goals, mentors should equally be accountable if a student has an issues or feels that they were not supported. All to often, any issue with a student ‘not reaching objectives’ is the students fault and the mentor has done nothing wrong which is not the case. Both sides should be held accountable and the matter should be investigated further.
6. There has to be genuine care and concern for students who are unwell. Each university should work diligently to ensure students are well enough to attend placement. There needs to be a legitimate structure in place that supports students who are unwell, have complex conditions or other mental and physical health conditions that may affect their time at placement. This service should support the student and teach the placement how to support that student regardless of what health issues they may be experiencing.
These are my perspectives, my opinions and my recommendations.