Date Published: 26 November 2008

Nursing students struggling in tough financial times

Almost three quarters of nursing students in the UK have had to get a second job just so they could afford to study and nearly half have considered leaving their course altogether, according to a report from the Royal College of Nursing (RCN).

The survey of over 4,500 nursing students across the UK found that paid work was having seriously negative consequences on the time they could devote to their studies. More than half of students (57%) said that they were working more than ten hours a week in paid employment alongside their studies in order to make ends meet.

Commenting on the report, Dr. Peter Carter, Chief Executive & General Secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, said:

It’s clear that nursing students are struggling to keep their heads above water because they’re saddled with debt and the support on offer is far from ideal. We all want a first class health service and nurses are absolutely integral to achieving this, but government need to realise that the inadequate bursary system is a factor in people dropping out of courses.

We’re talking about the nurses of the future, the people who we will expect to hold the health service together in years to come. These are people who want to deliver the very best patient care yet the system doesn’t provide the necessary support so that they can qualify in the first place. With 180,000 nurses due to retire within a decade, this country already faces a nurse recruitment time bomb, so this isn’t the time to under invest in the nurses of the future.

The government needs to introduce a liveable non-means tested bursary of £12,000 so that fees and spiralling living costs don’t stop nurses from staying the course, completing their studies and delivering high quality care for years to come.”

As well as calling for a liveable bursary, the RCN would like to see the introduction of a non-means tested bursary for all nursing students in England, similar to the system already in place in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Other survey findings include:

  • Higher education institutions can offer direct support to students at risk of leaving – but only if they are aware who is considering leaving. Three quarters of those who consider leaving (74%) said that their personal tutor at university was unaware that they were considering leaving their course.
  • Half of nursing students (47%) were over 30, including 17% who were between 35 and 40, and 19% who were over 40 years.
  • 62% who considered leaving their course gave financial reasons as the main factor with students reporting financial debts from less than £1500 to over £3000 and up to more than £10,000.
  • Nearly three quarters (73%) of nursing students reported that the money they earn helps them to continue with their course.

Source: Royal College of Nursing (RCN), UK.
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