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Nursing students being ‘used and abused’ on placements

RCN congress votes to demand protection of supernumerary status for students, after hearing that chronic understaffing meant it was common for them to fill gaps in rotas

RCN congress votes to demand protection of supernumerary status for students, after hearing that chronic understaffing meant it was common for them to fill gaps in rotas

Nursing students are being ‘used and abused’ in practice, with many reporting they are not given supernumerary status while on clinical placements.

Students who spoke out at this year’s RCN congress in Glasgow described being left on their own to care for high-risk patients or being expected to perform tasks they were not confident or competent to do.

Nursing students miss out on learning opportunities

RCN students committee chair Lucy Hayes said chronic understaffing meant it was common for students to fill gaps in rotas, meaning they missed out on learning opportunities

RCN congress votes to demand protection of supernumerary status for students, after hearing that chronic understaffing meant it was common for them to fill gaps in rotas

Nursing student on placement
Picture: iStock

Nursing students are being ‘used and abused’ in practice, with many reporting they are not given supernumerary status while on clinical placements.

Students who spoke out at this year’s RCN congress in Glasgow described being left on their own to care for high-risk patients or being expected to perform tasks they were not confident or competent to do.

Nursing students miss out on learning opportunities

RCN students committee chair Lucy Hayes said chronic understaffing meant it was common for students to fill gaps in rotas, meaning they missed out on learning opportunities and were not properly prepared to work as qualified nurses.

‘We frequently hear from students that they are not getting supernumerary time, that they are used as part of the team to support the operational needs of placement areas,’ she added.

Student survey finds many working one-to-one with high-risk patients

NMC guidance states that nursing students on placement must be considered supernumerary, meaning they should not be counted in staffing numbers needed to provide safe care.

However, a Twitter poll by the committee found just 5% of nursing students who took part felt they were given supernumerary status at all times when on placement, while 28% said this happened little or none of the time.

Some 46% of students said they had spent most or all of their time working one-to-one with high-risk patients, while just 8% said they had never been required to do this.

Among those asked to care for high-risk patients, more than three quarters (76%) said this was due to there not being enough staff in that setting.

Pressure on nursing students exacerbated by pandemic

Open University practice teacher Jean Rogers said nursing students were being ‘used and abused in practice’.

‘The pandemic, as you can imagine, has made this worse,’ she told RCN congress.

A Nursing Standard analysis found as many as one in three nursing students dropped out in 2020, with high attrition rates being linked to the pandemic and placement issues.

Nurses give up their own time to mentor students, says RCN

Senior lecturer in nursing and healthcare Rachael Major, from the RCN education forum, said staffing shortages also meant nurses were giving up their own time to supervise and mentor students because they were unable to do it during their working day.

‘This has an impact on them as well, seeing as they are already working so hard,’ she said.

Congress delegates voted in favour of a resolution calling on RCN council to lobby for the protection of supernumerary status for nursing students.


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