More than 300 people from the UK nurse education community gathered at St George’s Hospital in Tooting for the summit on Monday, which included a packed agenda featuring a host of high-profile speakers.
“Student nurses have such a big voice and we don’t often hear from them”
The event is the brainchild of Nikki Yun, who works at the South London hospital as a registered nurse in the general intensive care unit.
“When I was a student nurse I felt as though aside from RCN congress there is actually no platform for student nurses to come together to actually network, to meet from different year groups, from different fields of nursing, and I thought ‘ah, there’s a gap there’,” she told Nursing Times.
“Student nurses have such a big voice and we don’t often hear from them,” she added.
Asked about the key issues affecting student nurses right now, Ms Yun said the removal of the bursary was a big one, adding that she would not have been able to study nursing without it.
She also noted how the national nurse shortage meant nursing students sometimes lost their supernumerary status while on clinical placement, because they were needed to fill gaps.
“I remember when I was a student nurse, sometimes you would be counted in the numbers because there are shortfalls in staffing – ideally it shouldn’t happen, but unfortunately it does and that’s one of the biggest issues, I think,” she told Nursing Times.
Shortages of mentors for students was also cited by Ms Yun as a problem facing those in training and also staff nurses.
In terms of her own career, Ms Yun said she decided to switch to nursing as a mature student, because she felt unfulfilled in her former job as a nutritionist.
“I thought ‘do you know what, I am not satisfied, I am not completely happy with what I am doing, I am actually going to do something bit more worthwhile’ – so I decided I would go into nursing and I think I found my passion,” she said.
“It’s not uncommon to find directors of nursing who have never attended a trust board meeting”
It was during her studies that she got into campaign and advocacy work – helping to establish Kingston University’s first nursing society.
Since qualifying as an adult nurse three years ago, Ms Yun has organised two student nurse academic partnership (SNAP) conferences.
Last year, Ms Yun launched a pan-London student nurse congress. Due to interest from further afield, Ms Yun decided the broaden her horizons for this year’s event and open it up to the whole of the UK.
She organised the congress in her own time with support from student and newly qualified partners James Whatley, Jack Sherry and Helen Corry.
Asked for her message to student nurses, Ms Yun said: ”Go into nursing with an open mind and that they need to remember what they are doing is absolutely great and they are all inspirational in their own ways and they should be recognised for that and they have a voice, use it.”
The event included a debate on the effectiveness of nursing leadership with Dr Peter Carter, interim chair of North Middlesex NHS University Trust and former chief executive of the RCN; and Professor Alison Leary, professor of healthcare and workforce modelling at London South Bank University.
During the debate, delegates questioned whether student nurses were equipped with the tools during their training to query bad practice in the workplace.
Having been to both nursing and medical school, Professor Leary noted how medics were told from day one of their studies that they were going to be leaders but the same did not happen for nurses.
National Student Nurse Congress
Source: Steve Ford
Dr Carter said employers did not prepare nurses for “complex” senior roles such as directors of nursing on trust boards.
“It’s not uncommon to find people ending up as a director of nursing who have never attended a trust board meeting…and they find themselves really, really struggling,” he said.
Other speakers at the congress included RCN president Professor Anne Marie Rafferty; Professor Geraldine Walters, director of education and standards at the Nursing and Midwifery Council; and London chief nurse Professor Oliver Shanley.
The event included a new award to celebrate the achievements of exceptional student nurses. The winner was Katie Dutton, from De Montfort University in Leicester, who was inspired to become a nurse after surviving sepsis and has since developed a training tool to help health professionals tackle it.
As momentum builds, Ms Yun is now considering whether she could develop the event into an international student nurse conference.