Nursing students: two thirds want a non-patient-facing career
Survey also finds many worried about their mental health, staff shortages and burnout – as well as cost-of-living pressures and the cost of studying
Two thirds of UK nursing students are seeking a career that will not involve working directly with patients, while others are worried that staff shortages and burnout will affect their career progression, according to a new snapshot survey.
Many nursing and medical students are also worried about their mental well-being and future earnings, the report from research firm Elsevier Health found.
Non-patient-facing roles becoming more popular
The Clinician of the Future 2023 report features a survey of more than 2,200 nursing and medical students from across the globe, including 325 from the UK, of which 151 were nursing students.
It suggests many nursing students see their studies as a stepping stone to wider, non-patient-facing roles in healthcare.
Of the UK nursing students who took part, 64% said they envisaged working in roles that would not involve directly caring for patients.
While most said they were devoted to becoming a clinician and improving patients’ lives, 18% said they were considering dropping out of their nursing courses.
Mental health, staff shortages and burnout
The survey found 57% of UK nursing and medical students were worried about their mental health, while 64% believed they would suffer from burnout.
About three quarters said they were worried about healthcare staffing shortages and the impact this would have on them in their future role.
Financial pressures and the cost of studying were also key concerns. UK nursing students were the most concerned about their income after qualifying, with 74% saying this was a worry.
Possible reasons for nursing student attrition
Attracting and retaining nursing students in the NHS has been a challenge in recent years, with the number of nursing students accepted onto university courses dropping since the pandemic.
A Nursing Standard investigation estimates that more than a third of UK nursing students who were due to graduate from their three-year programmes in 2022 left before completion. Nursing workforce experts suggest pay and the cost-of-living crisis, feeling undervalued on placements, and discontent in the profession as expressed through the NHS strikes, are at least partly to blame.
Call for urgent action on nursing shortages
UK clinicians who took part in the research said the high rates of students considering quitting, and the lack of interest in patient-facing roles, were major concerns given the widespread shortages of nurses.
They said addressing nursing shortages should be the number one priority over the next two to three years.
The research findings raise questions about the government’s NHS long-term workforce plan, which pledges to recruit up to 190,000 more nurses by 2037, including creating thousands more training places.
‘Vicious cycle’ of staff shortages and workplace pressures
The Elsevier Health report warns that health systems in the UK, USA and other parts of the world are caught in a ‘vicious cycle’ where current workforce shortages and pressured working conditions are discouraging new recruits.
‘One of the factors affecting the well-being and commitment of today’s medical and nursing students is concern about future shortages and risk of burnout, which are exacerbated by shortfalls in incoming clinicians,’ it states.
Read the Elsevier Health research
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