Without bursary, two thirds 'would not have chosen nursing'

Most nurses believe proposed loan and fees system will lead to drop in student numbers and damage patient care, RCN survey finds

Two thirds of nurses would not have joined the profession had a bursary not been available during training, a major new survey has revealed.

A 17,000-strong poll by the RCN reveals widespread concern that plans to scrap bursaries for nursing and midwifery courses in England will harm student numbers and patient care.

The government has said replacing bursaries with tuition fees and student loans will fund up to 10,000 more training places by 2020, and give students around 25% more financial support.

Yet the RCN poll shows almost 66% of respondents would not have chosen nursing if it meant they had to take out a full student loan and pay fees.

The Council of Deans of Health, which represents universities that offer nursing and midwifery courses, last year called on the government to consider moving to a loans system.

It said the profession was facing a workforce crisis and students were struggling financially.

However, 80% of the 650 nurse educators who responded to the RCN survey said they either disagree or strongly disagree with the proposals.

Other key findings of the survey include:

89% of all respondents either disagree or strongly disagree with the government’s plans.

88% believe scrapping the bursary would lead to a fall in the number of future nursing students.

79% believe it would have a negative impact on patient care.

68% had to find additional paid work to support themselves financially during training.

31% of respondents had caring responsibilities for dependent children while training, while 23% cared for someone sick, disabled or older.

King’s College London postgraduate adult nursing student Zoe Alldis said the proposals would hit mature students and those with families particularly hard.

‘I already had debts from my first degree and had been unemployed before applying to do nursing,’ she said. ‘I simply wouldn’t have been able to afford it had there not been any financial support.

‘Getting rid of the bursary risks losing a lot of future nurses, particularly mature students who bring life experience and skills from previous careers.’

The survey also found 81% of respondents do not believe that registered nurses currently have the capacity to mentor more students.

A third-year adult undergraduate student at King’s College London, Danielle Tiplady, said: ‘Where is the government going to put all the thousands more students?

‘I know of one ward where a mentor had seven students. The government has to take notice of what the front line nursing profession is saying.’

RCN general secretary Janet Davies said: ‘The government has not explained how these extra placements will be funded, and nurses are clearly saying that without extra funding the quality of mentoring will suffer.’


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