Cuts to nursing student placements ‘ridiculously stressful’

Hospital staff shortages have curtailed or delayed placements, while students at Birmingham City University talk of their struggle to make up the required hours
Nursing student

Hospital staff shortages have curtailed or delayed placements, while students at Birmingham City University talk of their struggle to make up the required hours

Picture: iStock

Nursing students in the West Midlands have had their clinical placements cut short or pushed back by their university because of ‘capacity issues’.

Students at Birmingham City University (BCU) were due to start placements at the beginning of September for 13 weeks, but many of these have been curtailed or delayed due to staff shortages at local hospitals.

Student tells of placement allocation stress

Megan, who didn’t want her surname published, and who is studying children’s nursing, told Nursing Standard the situation was ‘ridiculously stressful’.

‘I was due to be on a 13-week placement from September to December but it got to the end of August and I hadn’t heard anything about allocations,’ she said.

Megan added that she ‘constantly’ chased the university but was told she would have to wait as they couldn’t find her a placement.

She eventually managed to get a full 13-week placement but said other students faced significantly shorter placements, including one who was only placed for four weeks.

Placement rules for nursing students

The Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) requires nursing students to complete 2,300 hours of clinical placements.

Universities allocate placement blocks within different areas of nursing to ensure the hours required to become a registered nurse are completed within the length of the course.

Students who have missed hours during a placement can make up the time, or if they fail their combined placement a ‘retrieval of practice’ could be granted. This means students can repeat the placement or make up the hours of a missed placement but may have to delay their graduation to do so.

News that a placement has been curtailed can cause stress. Picture: iStock

‘Too many students and not enough staff’

At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, thousands of final-year nursing students faced a delay of up to three months before they could graduate because of placement delays.

Megan is worried the situation could repeat itself.

‘We’re all inevitably going to end up with a retrieval placement because we’re going to be under our required hours. We’re not going to have everything signed off, which is just ridiculously stressful in itself,’ she said.

‘There’s too many students and not enough staff to allocate them to a placement.’

‘I’ve lost over half of my placement’

Fellow student Alex Griffiths, who is studying for an MSci in adult and child nursing, had his placement cut down to six weeks.

‘It dawned on me that I’m paying – from my student loan – to be on placement. I’ve now lost over half of that big block of placement,’ he said.

‘It's ridiculous when you think about it, you need these 2,300 hours to register and the NMC isn’t going to just turn around and go “because you couldn’t find a placement for those seven weeks, we’ll just waive those seven weeks of hours”.’

University highlights its support of students

A BCU spokesperson said university courses usually offer ‘over and above’ the hours required to graduate to mitigate against situations like this.

‘We will always work with students to ensure they meet the requirements of registration. We ensure all our students complete all the practice-based learning and assessment needed to complete their course and qualify within the requirements set out by the NMC,’ they said.

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