Expert advice

Nursing applications are up, but even ‘heroes’ experience burnout

The COVID-19-related impact on nurses’ image is no long-term fix for nurse retention

The COVID-19-related impact on nurses image is no long-term fix for nurse retention

Picture: iStock

The year 2020 is shaping up to be a bumper one for nursing student numbers.

Data from the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) shows that the number of placed applicants for nursing courses in the UK this year is more than 34,000 a 22% increase on the figures for 2019.

Good news or an emerging crisis on the horizon

There is some variation across the UK, with a 23% increase in placed applicants living in England, a 20% increase in those residing in Scotland, a 19% increase in Northern Ireland and an 11% increase in Wales.

There has also been

...

The COVID-19-related impact on nurses’ image is no long-term fix for nurse retention

Picture: iStock

The year 2020 is shaping up to be a bumper one for nursing student numbers.

Data from the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) shows that the number of placed applicants for nursing courses in the UK this year is more than 34,000 – a 22% increase on the figures for 2019.

Good news or an ‘emerging crisis’ on the horizon

There is some variation across the UK, with a 23% increase in placed applicants living in England, a 20% increase in those residing in Scotland, a 19% increase in Northern Ireland and an 11% increase in Wales.

There has also been a notable increase in mature nursing student numbers: placed nursing applicants aged 30-34 are up 27% compared with 2019 and there is a 37% increase in those aged 35 and over.

This good news was tempered somewhat by the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee’s report on the NHS nursing workforce, published in the same week as the UCAS analysis.

The report was much less positive, highlighting fears of ‘an emerging crisis in nursing’ after COVID-19.

It pointed to high vacancy levels and increasing concerns about nursing staff well-being and burnout, and highlighted likely problems with retaining nurses.

Heroism or pragmatism may be driving application numbers

The connection between these two reports is COVID-19.

An analysis from UCAS head of analytical data Richard O’Kelly points to the media-driven image of heroic nurses working on the COVID front line as one factor in the increase in nursing student applicants.

The analysis also suggests that applicant numbers have been boosted by concerns that a COVID-19-induced economic recession will reduce job prospects in other sectors of the economy.

Nursing as a heroic calling or nursing as a pragmatic career choice when alternatives are unavailable?

Neither assessment fully reflects the tough realities of the job. Although more first-year students is good news, much work remains to retain them throughout their education and beyond.



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