Student nurses face 'heart-rending' financial concerns while studying

A study found three quarters of students say financial burdens are taking a toll on their mental health.

Student nurses face ‘heart-rending’ financial concerns while studying, RCN Scotland say iStock

Student nurses are facing “heart-rending” financial burdens forcing them to consider dropping out of their studies, a survey has found.

Nearly all (99%) said they were concerned about their finances with almost three quarters saying it takes a toll on their mental health.

Many said they were considering leaving their course as they could no longer afford to continue studying.

“It is heart-rending, to be honest,” said Lou Hyett-Collins, a student at the University of the Highlands and Islands .

“So many of us are struggling given the financial difficulties we all face.”

The stark findings were published on Wednesday by The Royal College of Nursing Scotland.

The study surveyed 1,046 students between January and February this year.

It found 99% of respondents said finances were a cause for concern while 74% said it is having a “high” impact on their mental health and 48% said it affects their physical health.

It was also uncovered that, 90% of respondents are working 11 or more hours a week to supplement their income on top of studies and clinical placements

Ms Hyett-Collins, who is also one of Scotland’s members on the RCN Student Committee, said: “Behind every statistic are hundreds of individual nursing students trying to persevere with so many odds stacked against them.

“The level of hardship being experienced, if it continues without significant action from the Scottish government, is a threat to the current and future nursing workforce.”

The union have now called upon the Scottish Government to provide greater financial support for those training in the profession.

Chloe Jackson, a nursing student at Robert Gordon’s University in Aberdeen, said: “Nursing is not like other degrees.

“There are many nursing students who must work to supplement their income. Working long hours on top of completing clinical placements and studying can lead to burn out before students even start their nursing career.

Ms Jackson, who is Scotland’s other member on the committee, said many nursing students are older and have existing financial commitments, children or other dependants, and are responsible for providing more than half or all of their household’s financial income.

“We need more financial support to prevent so many falling into hardship and burn out,” she said.

Colin Poolman, RCN Scotland director, said: “Nursing is a hugely rewarding profession and many nurses go on to enjoy a long and varied career.

“But the evidence from this survey strongly suggests that there is a danger of strangling nursing careers and aspirations before they’ve properly begun.

“The Scottish Government must sit up and listen to what nursing students are telling them in this report.

“As the report from our survey sets out, all of this means that the Scottish Government must improve financial support to show that nursing is truly a valued profession.

“With persistently high levels of registered nurse vacancies, we can’t allow more nursing students to drop out.

“We’ve also seen applications to nursing courses drop alarmingly so that not all places on university courses are being filled.

“The Scottish Government has responded by capping nursing student numbers for the next three years, but what we really need to see are efforts to make nursing an attractive profession to pursue once again.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “The £10,000 annual Scottish student nurse bursary is non-means tested and non-repayable – and provided alongside free tuition, placement expenses, uniforms, disclosure fees and health checks.

“In addition to the best package in the UK, eligible student nurses can access a ring-fenced Discretionary fund through their university for extra support.

“The expenses student nurses incur as part of their placement, are assessed and approved by their home institutions and passed to Student Awards Agency Scotland (SAAS) for direct payment within 2 weeks. Students can also apply for advanced payments of expenses through their university.”

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