We all know that undertaking any further study, whether this be an apprenticeship, undergraduate course or even a PhD is a massive commitment that requires a lot of motivation, time, and commitment to be successful. When it comes to Healthcare courses, such as Nursing, Midwifery or Allied Health Professional (AHP) courses, the demand can be much greater. This is due to the time students spend on practice placements out in real care settings, experiencing and getting involved in the delivery of care whilst balancing the demands of academic work. Most students are not paid a wage whilst they are on placement despite being considered as an ‘extra pair of hands’ on shift or an ‘extra body’ on a team. Students studying specified health care courses could have access to a training grant from the NHS Learning Support Fund and can apply to claim certain expenses endured whilst they are on placement. However, there are eligibilities that some students may not meet, such as being international students.
The current cost-of-living crisis is having an increasing detrimental effect on the wellbeing of healthcare students across the UK. A nursing student in the UK shared that peers in their cohort have needed to drop out of their course due to the stress caused by the cost-of-living crisis with some fellow nurses advising them to not become nurses . Existing data shows that there are high attrition rates in nursing students: in 2019, 25% of nursing students in England left or suspended their studies . This raises the question as to whether the increased strain nursing students are currently facing is impacting on this existing attrition rate, meaning fewer nurses will be going on to graduate and join the workforce.
From my personal experience, I have seen first-hand how the cost-of-living crisis is hitting nursing and healthcare students hard. It’s no secret that students are having to rely on food banks, working extra shifts on top of placement hours for extra income to pay their bills or choose between buying fuel for their car or grocery shopping. The harsh reality is that this is not exclusive to just healthcare students. The National Union of Student’s (NUS) has launched a Cost-of-Living Campaign after a study of 3,500 students and apprentices found that a vast majority of students are cutting back on their spending with over 90% of respondents stating that the current crisis has taken a toll on their mental health, but only 1 in 5 saying they had received support from the government .
More needs to be done to protect our future workforce from facing difficult decisions associated with the cost-of-living crisis that may lead them to have no other choice but to leave their respective courses. Healthcare students, now more than ever, need to be listened to and heard with targeted support and help given to empower students to complete their studies and be successful future practitioners.
1: ITV News (2022) NHS morale so low students are told ‘don’t become nurses’ amid cost of living crisis. Available at NHS morale so low students are told ‘don’t become nurses’ amid cost of living crisis | ITV News Wales [accessed 23 November 2022].
2: The Health Foundation (2019) How many nursing students are leaving or suspending their degrees before graduation? Available at How many nursing students are leaving or suspending their degrees before graduation? (health.org.uk) [accessed 23 November 2022].
3: National Union of Students (2022) Cost of Living Campaign. Available at Cost of Living Campaign – National Union of Students UK (nus.org.uk) [accessed 23 November 2022].
Authored by Ellie Johnson, November 2022