This blog post is very different from my usual topic, however it is a message that I wanted to get out there, and what better place then here. As many of you will know I am a final year student nurse. I am thoroughly enjoying my training and I feel very lucky to be able to do it. However, had it not been for the NHS Bursary I would not have been able to do my nursing degree as I have a student loan to repay from a previous degree. Today it was announced that student nurses will no longer be supported by the NHS Bursary and will need to take out a loan. This will potentially mean up to £30,000 (or more depending on location) of debt for students who's starting salary is £21,478. Take into consideration that many nurses, like myself, have previous degree loans to repay, and many have families to support, it raises the question; how many will get into so much debt for a nurses salary...?
As a student nurse I have spent the last three years between University lectures and clinical placements, showing my dedication and passion for the nursing profession. I have given up my job, my salary and my financial security to retrain and complete a three year adult nursing degree. I have cared for and supporting my patients in the best way that I possibly can, always putting others before my own needs, whilst maintaining my ongoing education. I have worked long unpaid hours in order to gain experience, knowledge and understanding in my new profession. I have stayed far past the end of my shift when wards were understaffed, I have worked without breaks in order to provide care, I have done everything possible to ensure that I am being the best student nurse that I can be, so that I will one day be the best nurse that I can be. Not only that but as a student nurse my time spent studying is longer than most degree students. When others have gone home for summer holidays and Christmas, my nurse colleagues and I are still diligently attending University and clinical placements.
Being a student nurse is physically and emotionally demanding – we undertake clinical practice for 8-12 weeks at a time alongside studying to further our knowledge, writing essays, undertaking drugs exams, working and caring for our families To me the decision to remove the NHS Bursary shows very little respect for our future nurses and a complete lack of understanding into how it will affect an already damaged NHS. The government has made mistakes and is trying desperately to claw back some money, however student nurses will be paying for those mistakes. It raises many questions such as how many nurses will be able to train without a bursary? Will the government raise the salary of nurses (who when qualified start on £21,478 per year) to enable them to repay student loans? How will student nurses who are undertaking a very emotionally demanding degree cope with the financial burden that a student loan entails? And as mentioned for some, repaying previous loans and/or raising families? And what will be the knock on effect should training places not be filled?
Many student nurses rely on the NHS bursary to support them through their degree. We become highly skilled, professional and committed individuals who bring excellent values and beliefs to the NHS and we do so because we care. Our strict University screening process ensure that students who apply to study nursing are doing so because we want to make a difference, because we have the qualities that will allow us to become caring and compassionate professionals. These qualities are then assessed throughout our degree, allowing us to build upon our skills, transforming us into proud nurses who you would want to care for your nearest and dearest. When we apply to become nurses we do not do so because we want to earn huge salaries at the end of it. We know that is not going to be our reality. We accept that we will be on an average wage, however the NHS bursary helps us to prepare for that. Now that this has been withdrawn how many caring and compassionate people will be able to train to become a nurse? Personally I couldn’t have afforded to train without the financial support that I have received from my NHS bursary and I am very grateful for that. I wish that our future nurses would be given the same opportunity that I have had – the opportunity that allows them to care for a career.