NHS trust becomes first to sign pledge to improve rights of nursing students

Unison’s initiative wants ‘first taste of NHS’ to be a positive one while on placement 

Unison wants placements – ‘the first taste of life in the NHS’ – to be a positive experience 

Mentoring is a key part of a student’s placement. Picture: John Houlihan

East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust has become the first NHS employer in the UK to sign a pledge to improve the rights of nursing and other healthcare students while on placement.

The pledge, from union Unison, calls on NHS employers to:

  • Offer flexible placements.
  • Ensure students only take on roles and procedures they have been prepared for.
  • Give protected time for students to meet with their practice supervisor.
  • Supervise students adequately.
  • Give students enough time to reflect on the care they have given.

It also asks employers to work with universities to ensure students’ requests are considered when placements are allocated.

Longer lead time required when giving date of placement

The pledge, launched in October, was created in response to a Unison poll of almost 1,000 healthcare students, of which 44% said they had been given less than four weeks’ notice of their placement.

Feedback from respondents showed that this proved stressful and challenging for students with caring responsibilities, because it gave little time to make arrangements.  

Survey uncovers inflexibility and bullying on placement

The Unison poll also found:

  • 34% of students said their requests and circumstances were not taken into consideration when their placement was allocated.
  • 19% said they were bullied by a mentor while on placement.
  • 19% said they were bullied by another colleague or student while on placement.

Unison hopes NHS trust’s signing of pledge is first of many signatories 

Unison’s national nursing officer Stuart Tuckwood praised East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust, and said: ‘We look forward to other hospitals across the country making the same pledge to improve our NHS.

‘For many, placements will be students’ first taste of life in the NHS, so it’s vital that the experience is a positive one. 

‘Better placements won’t just benefit students; they’ll make life better for their supervisors, their patients and the whole health service.’

Read the Unison pledge

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