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Nursing students tell of shedding tears over staffing crisis

Nursing students on picket line in Derbyshire say pressures make it hard to learn and registered nurses are too busy to teach them
Nursing student Lorna Paterson

Nursing students on picket line in Derbyshire say pressures make it hard to learn and registered nurses are too busy to teach them

Nursing students in Derbyshire have told how they finish shifts in floods of tears because of the staffing crisis. Others said they felt like they were being pulled in different directions and it was impacting their ability to learn.

Trainee nurses told Nursing Standard they were struggling to complete their course proficiencies for university as registered nurses are so swamped they do not have time to teach them.

Speaking on the picket

Nursing students on picket line in Derbyshire say pressures make it hard to learn and registered nurses are too busy to teach them

Nursing student Lorna Paterson
Nursing student Lorna Paterson Picture: John Houlihan

Nursing students in Derbyshire have told how they finish shifts in floods of tears because of the staffing crisis.
Others said they felt like they were being pulled in different directions and it was impacting their ability to learn.

Trainee nurses told Nursing Standard they were struggling to complete their course proficiencies for university as registered nurses are so swamped they do not have time to teach them.

Speaking on the picket line at Ilkeston Community Hospital, Lorna Paterson – who will qualify on Friday – said many students in her cohort had dropped out of the adult nursing degree due to financial hardship and the overwhelming pressures of placements.

‘It’s heartbreaking. In second year I thought about leaving a few times. I had a placement in an acute hospital and would often leave my shift in floods of tears,’ said Ms Paterson.

Picketing at Chesterfield Royal Hospital in Derbyshire
Picketing at Chesterfield Royal Hospital in Derbyshire Picture: John Houlihan

Training and financial support needs to be more accessible and flexible

‘We were so short-staffed you would only have a newly qualified nurses and one other to look after a whole ward of older patients with COVID.

‘Something needs to change. Training and financial support needs to be more accessible and flexible to get more people into the profession. I am proud that I’m going to become a nurse but the future feels pretty bleak.’

In Derby, nurses gathered beneath a statue of the founder of modern nursing Florence Nightingale as they joined the picket line at the Florence Nightingale Community Hospital.

Second-year student Hannah Smith told Nursing Standard that students were being used to plug the gaps as shifts were so short-staffed when they arrived.

Strikers at Ilkeston Hospital in Derbyshire
Strikers at Ilkeston Hospital in Derbyshire Picture: John Houlihan

A difficult time for students to be on placement

She said she will often be working on a ward where there are 16 patients to every nurse, and supervisors are struggling to find time to train students on placements.

‘Today feels momentous,’ she said. ‘The situation at the moment makes it very difficult when you’re on placement. It’s a battle between trying to tick off your proficiencies and do the paperwork, along with being pulled to do all you can to give the patients the immediate care they need.

Ms Smith said she was extremely proud and grateful to her colleagues standing on the picket line with her. She added that she remains determined to become a nurse but knows that some of her peers are having doubts about their future career as nurses.

Strikers at Royal Marsden Hospital in London
Strikers at Royal Marsden Hospital in London Picture: John Houlihan

‘It’s such a difficult course, and we will graduate being highly skilled professionals. But the pay doesn’t reflect that. I know that if there was a proper graduate pay scale it would be more appealing, there would be more and more talent coming into the job,’ she said.

‘Every shift is short on numbers and then the trust has to pay more for nurses from the local agency to bulk up the numbers. If they had more full time staff they wouldn’t need to spend that money.’


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