On the 17th January 2018 the BBC had the following headline: “NHS ‘haemorrhaging’ nurses as 33,000 leave each year“. The BBC reports that leavers outnumbered joiners by 3,000 last year, the biggest gap over the five-year period. Nurses are leaving in a large part due to the pressures resulting from low staffing levels. The freeze on pay over the years certainly hasn’t helped as a higher salary may help.
It appears that nurses leaving the NHS are joining the private sector, such as agencies, pharmaceutical companies, and private hospitals. Some are moving abroad to continue as a nurse. Due to the Brexit vote, a higher percentage of European nurses are leaving. Sadly, some leave nursing altogether.
On the supply side – newly qualified graduate nurses are not coming through quick enough. Not only this, it is now a concern that those studying nursing and the newly qualified will not have the opportunity to learn the good practices from the experienced nurses.
Universities have seen notable decreases in the number of students applying to study nursing in the last year. But numbers have been falling since the bursary was removed, and when the diploma options to qualify were taken away. The BBC reports that the government is increasing the number of nurse training places by 5,000 this year but will they get filled?
The NHS is putting in place improvements which include mentoring schemes for newly qualified students and incorporating retention programme. Some report that although there has been an increase in those leaving the profession, due to the higher recruitment numbers over the last several years, that numbers are on par with 2010.
So, if you are interested in studying nursing, what should you do? A few questions and things to consider are provided below.
- The Brexit situation hasn’t helped – a huge number of nurses who are from Europe have left the UK because of the vote, not necessarily because they dislike the job.
- There has been a domino effect with people leaving the NHS. However, with the attention from the Government, hopefully positive changes will take place. Already student nursing places have been increased (hopefully they are filled), and there is now a Nursing Apprenticeship programme allowing students to study part-time. These will contribute to increasing the supply of nurses and taking the pressure off the sector. Also, by time you graduate things should be on a better trajectory.
- Pay is an issue, particularly for senior nurses who have been in the profession for many years. It’s pretty good as a graduate salary. If the Government looks to change this it would be great for those looking to qualify, but it may also attract nurses who left the NHS to return. The Government may also inject financial support for those looking to study. This did happen when the number of people going into the teaching profession fell.
- A role in nursing is a job for life (if they wish it to be). That cannot be said for many jobs and sectors. Nurses also enter the job they study. The vast majority of students leaving university do not immediately enter their preferred career.
- If you love it, do it! Although higher numbers have left the profession, there are a great deal who are staying within it. Really look into the reasons why the numbers have fallen and whether improvements can, and will, be made.
A word of advice when choosing a university to study nursing at: check their hospital placements and the hospital ratings. You want as much of a positive experience with supported learning during your placement. Also, check the student satisfaction rates for the course at the universities you are looking in to as they are usually negatively impacted if their placement experience was poor. You’ll find that teaching at universities in nursing is usually taught by energetic and committed academics and practitioners.
If you have the right caring and professional qualities to make an impact as a nurse then please go for it! The NHS is fantastic and the reason it is fantastic is due to the superb healthcare teams. We may be overly optimistic at Futurebot but we do believe things will get better. There is a bumpy road, but with committed nurses taking on the challenge in the short term will help lead to a better NHS in the longer term. Let’s hope those in Government who can help improve things listen to the healthcare sector and positively influence change.