A need to inspire

We neglect our student nurses at our peril, says Ishbel Straker.

I have a dream…. that one day all student nurses will be made to feel welcome while on their placements… that student nurses will be nurtured and valued through their journey on hospital wards and community settings. They will arrive with a mentor already named and a timetable set, which will maximise their learning outcomes. They will be encouraged to ask questions and feel comfortable to highlight areas for improvement within services.

While undertaking my nurse training my learning experiences varied. On some placements I was met with the ‘dream’, and on others I was met with a response of ‘we didn’t even know you were coming’ – not the best start to a 12-week relationship!

What concerns me from a clinical director’s point of view is that nationally we are having a nurse recruitment crisis. We are unable to fill posts with permanent staff, let alone retain them. Our international drives have been unsuccessful and now our university intakes are looking worrying.

The bottom line is that we have a duty of care to encourage and nurture our students. We need to position them for the best educational experience they can have in order for the next generation of nurses to come out as well-rounded clinicians.

This leads me onto the student’s vocational experience: how are we to attract nurses into the field of addiction when this is not a standardised placement area? With the increase of awareness around comorbidities in addiction, why are we not seeing more general nursing students coming through our services?

You might say this is because of the lack of placement opportunities, and I can say that in my current and previous role I made it the top of my agenda to have our services filled with student nurses, to which some universities stated they would not use non-NHS placements. This is an interesting concept when the NHS has a consistently reducing portfolio of addiction services.

What is my point? Well, I want students to be welcomed and nurtured when on placement in our addiction services, so much so that they notice, just as I did as a student, that this field is different to any other in nursing. I want students to ask at the end of their placements with us to contact them should any jobs arise in the future, because that placement stands out more than any other in the whole of their three years’ training as one which they want to come back to as a qualified member of staff.

What better accolade than when a student nurse returns home to make their career?

Ishbel Straker is clinical director for a substance misuse organisation, a registered mental health nurse, independent nurse prescriber (INP), and a board member of IntANSA.