One of ANMF (Vic Branch)’s priorities is ensuring nursing and midwifery students have the best learning experience so they can enter the workforce with confidence.
On Saturday 27 August, the Branch held a virtual student feedback forum to provide students the opportunity to raise their issues and solutions with Branch Secretary Lisa Fitzpatrick, Victorian Chief Nurse and Midwifery Officer Jac Mathieson, and Safer Care Victoria’s Adele O’Hehir.
A diverse range of nursing and midwifery students attended, from first to final year diploma, degree, double degree and existing enrolled nurses studying to become registered nurses.
The biggest issues raised by attendees related to clinical placements, specifically:
- Unreasonable placement scheduling – the majority said they struggled with a lack of notice, with some reporting they were given one business day. Another issue was back-to-back placements (e.g. 16-weeks fulltime) to catch up after delays or cancellations.
- Lack of notice of rosters – students reported receiving their roster on the first day of placement, leaving no time to arrange necessary practical life planning, such as childcare or leave from their paid work.
- Social and financial impacts – one student advised that placement cost them an extra $450 per week for fuel, childcare, parking, etc. Another said they sacrificed income from paid public holiday shifts as they were rostered on holidays.
- Lack of accommodation – students reported they needed accommodation for rural/regional and metropolitan placements, with one student sharing that they heard of classmates staying at a camping ground to save money as there was no other affordable options.
- Lack of support – students reported their educational providers were often unhelpful when they raised issues and were compelled to take whatever placement was allocated or risk delays to their course progression. Many were frustrated by the lack of communication and lack of response by universities.
All attendees worried they’d burn out before their career began as they felt the weight of expectations juggling 40 hours of placement a week, paid work, course work and family commitments. Many said they had a lack of debrief opportunities which compounded their feelings of isolation and loneliness.
Students also provided their solutions, including:
- Financial support – fuel vouchers, paid study leave for students working as a RUSON/RUSOM/PQRN, wipe HECS debt upon completion of study, grants/scholarships or a bursary to subsidise placement costs, free uniforms, free working with children, NDIS and police checks
- Flexibility – minimum six weeks’ notice of start date and roster, regular part-time placement, placement preference options, offering placements outside hospitals (e.g. aged care and community settings)
- Placement support – mandatory clinical nurse educator ratios, trained preceptors
Other solutions included reducing barriers for recency of practice and consistency with education providers for recognition of prior learning if they switch education providers.
Lisa Fitzpatrick said that it was crucial for ANMF and the State and Federal Governments to hear from students to ensure everyone is getting the student experience right.
She explained that the ANMF was acutely aware of many issues students have been raising. ‘The discussion and talking points from today will be used to advocate and lobby the state and federal governments to seek change. We want to embed the good things we have learned during the pandemic and also prepare for the future.’
Ms Jac Mathieson agreed. ‘Workforce is our top priority right now, and you are all the future of our workforce. If we don’t get it right for students, we do not get it right for the wider professions.’
She said that the healthcare landscape had changed remarkably, especially with the pandemic and she encouraged students to adopt ‘blue sky thinking’ to influence change to adapt to this new landscape.
Students reported that they felt validated in their concerns and appreciated the opportunity to be heard.
As the future of our professions, the ANMF (Vic Branch) believe all nursing and midwifery students have a right to be heard, and is grateful for the candour of attendees.
While change doesn’t happen overnight, the Branch will ensure all contributions are used to lobby federal and state governments for future improvements. This includes the taskforce recently commenced by the Andrews Government to examine specifically issues surrounding clinical placements for nurses and midwives.