Issues I Experience As A Student Nurse

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.

Michaela

13 thoughts on “Issues I Experience As A Student Nurse

  1. Hi Michaela, I read your report with great interest and it only helps to confirm the critical state that the NHS in general finds itself in.
    I speak on behalf of Jeanne whom you well know; as a patient she has been miserably failed countless times by many doctors and nurses, including on one occasion being discharged from hospital against her will whilst still clearly sick and then, when re-admitted only days later, being accused of having discharged herself days earlier against the doctor’s recommendations! It is, on far too many occasions, only thanks to her own strength, determination and self belief that she has managed to pull through some very serious situations. She also tells me how, for example, in my presence many of her doctors and nurses have a much friendlier attitude towards her than when she’s on her own. I am pleased to say that we are now in the process of shifting some of her care to a different hospital where doctors and nurses seem far more empathising and considerate. All the best Michaela, see you soon! Roger

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hey Roger! Honestly the lack of empathy in hospitals is shocking especially when a patient is alone. I’m aware of what Jeanne went through and I agree that it was her own will power that got her through. The NHS can be a real hit and miss, this is because of the individual nurse, doctor etc and their approach to care. Sometimes you have to hope for the best care which, is an unfortunate reality. Great care isn’t a guarantee with the NHS. It sucks

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  2. Wow I am so sorry to hear the struggles that you’ve encountered and witnessed. It truly is heartbreaking to see so many divisive, and really unethical, work standards that are given no punishment. It is so common in the workforce for those who you expect to mentor and guide you to be the most unprofessional and intolerable. Thank you for sharing your story, and I hope your take on this encourages others to consider pursuing nursing (or whatever dream they have)!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you and yes you are right! You wouldn’t think that bullying was an issue in the NHS but it is an it goes unpunished and ultimately the patient suffers. I hope that future nurses, doctors, physiotherapists and anyone looking to work in healthcare will not be discouraged! Hopefully this post will get enough attention to make changes. Please share it if you can! It’s time for change!

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  3. Hi Micheala thank you for writing this post and raising this as an issue. I left my home to pursue a postgraduate education in Nursing a few years ago in another City. The course was perfect because it was a small class and as you can imagine this made it very competitive to get a place. In fact the university and lectures had a great reputation and once i started the lectures it felt like I was exactly were I needed to be as i was really enjoying the course. Everything changed once i started my community placement. My mentor was extremely unprofessional (swearing a lot of the time and did not seem bothered about helping me to get trained). Eventually I did raise it up with the university who found me another mentor at the same placement but by this point nothing seemed the same. It felt like I had betrayed my mentor and I was made to feel like an outcast – no one actually speaks to the nurses. As the days went on I started feeling more and more depressed. I eventually left the course. As you can imagine this was a v hard decision because after years of working as a health care assistant and genuinely loving caring for others, I started questioning why I had initially applied. Reading your post brings so many issues to light. Bullying within nursing is very real. I just didnt realise how many people were affected. You hear so many stories on the news about a shortage in the NHS but this is exactly why. Once again thank you for writing this post and being an advocate for many student nurses. I really do hope that there will be a change in the system because otherwise, our healthcare could be facing a bigger problem then we could imagine.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. HI Jeanette, I’m sorry to hear about what happened to you. It is crazy to hear that they kept you in the same placement and changed your mentor, of course it would be awkward as anything for you. Your university seem incredibly out of touch with student experience in placement, a massive shortcoming on their part. They failed you as their student and another potentially awesome nurse was lost! I will keep on making noise about this until there is change. Please share this so more people can see! Best wishes !

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  4. Thank you for sharing, what a great realistic post. More awareness of how student nurses are really treated need to be addressed & dealt with. I’m hoping one day when you are a mentor you will remember these poor experiences and take the bad experience and turn them into a positive experience. I wish you every success in the future x

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