When I was a student nurse, I was salaried. I have to say the pay was very low, but I was only 18 with no one to support but myself and I managed. Things these days are very different, a few students are on a salary, these are usually people who have already been working as healthcare assistants and have been sponsored by their NHS trust to go off for 3 years to undertake nurse training. Everyone else receives a bursary of under £6000 a year, a level which the RCN points out is less than the minimum wage. In the past most nurses who have wanted a job after qualifying have been able to get one, but in the last couple of years, recruitment freezes have meant that new nurses (and doctors, physios, OTs etc) have found it increasingly difficult to secure that first job. Some nurses have even been encouraged to take work on a voluntary basis to get the experience they need before finding paid employment.
Many people studying for a diploma or degree in nursing are still school leavers, but many more are not. They have families to support, childcare to pay for and increasingly they have to travel long distances between hospital / community sites as part of their clinical practice experience. I guess that is why this campaign has been launched. We all know that premiership footballers are over paid and under-worked (if you can call running around a football pitch work) so perhaps they are a good group to target. I think it is great that this is being done, but it shouldn’t be like this.
It costs thousands of pounds to train a nurse, but nursing as a profession is not really valued. The nurses themselves appear only too often to want to use their period of training as a way to bigger and better things. There seems an increasing desire to become some kind of specialist before they have applied their trade in a general way, and this must partly be down to the salary paid after qualifying and the fact that other disciplines appear to be able to earn more doing a generalist job. Nurses shouldn’t be a charity case, they should be paid a living wage, they should be paid for the work they do and they should be able to afford to remain working as nurses who actually provide care for patients. Meanwhile, if premiership footballers are willing to give up a day’s pay then what better charity case than nurses?