Most students need to work whilst studying for their undergraduate degree, and throughout the COVID 19 pandemic an increasing number of nursing and midwifery students have chosen to work in health as registered undergraduate students of nursing (RUSONs) or registered undergraduate students of midwifery (RUSOMs).
The Andrews Government, as part of its focus on health workforce recovery, is providing funding to commencing nursing and midwifery students, as well as more funded RUSON and RUSOM positions. A clearer understanding of the influence RUSON and RUSOM employment has on registered nurse and midwife readiness for practice assists ANMF’s advocacy to government.
In June, ANMF graduate members were invited to respond to a survey of their experience of working while studying. Similar research suggests that when nursing and midwifery students work in health settings while they study, it increases their confidence as well as their basic clinical and communication skills.
The survey – part of a research project titled Becoming a nurse: a mixed methods study of student nurse employment and graduate nurse experience – commenced in June and closed on 30 September with 717 respondents. Due to its timing, it focused on graduates from the more established RUSON model; the RUSOM model, which started in November 2020, had produced fewer graduates at the time the research project began.
Early results demonstrate the commitment graduates have to their professions, despite current workload pressures. Sixty-five per cent indicated they worked as a student, while the majority (82 per cent) indicated they intend to stay in nursing/midwifery. Of these, 40 per cent worked as RUSONs, 16 per cent as assistants in nursing/personal care assistants/health assistants in nursing, and the remainder in other positions like retail or hospitality. In addition, 2.4 per cent were already working as ENs.
Over 50 per cent said their work as a student had a moderate to significant influence on their learning and study, and 60 per cent said the same for their graduate program preparation. Forty-four per cent of those who responded to the question indicated that the RUSON role was the role that had the most influence on their learning.
Graduates who worked as RUSONs or in other healthcare roles indicated that overall they benefited from this experience through a connection to the profession and acute hospital experience.
“My experience as a RUSON really inspired me to continue with nursing,” said one indicative response.
“It has definitely helped me ease into hospital shift work, said another.”
The value of clinical experience is also apparent:
“Even just that practical experience of manually palpating a pulse and finding an arrhythmia… I found that extremely beneficial.”
“Having that extra time on a ward, seeing how the nurses managed their time, being there to support them and then having to manage my own time … it’s such an asset now as a nurse myself.”
“It [transition to nursing] was also less daunting because I had that prior knowledge of how the hospital works.”
The students and registered nurse/midwife graduates working throughout this pandemic have been critically important in supporting the workforce and helping to maintain safe patient care. We should acknowledge just how remarkable they really are in the context of such a challenging time to begin their careers. We can also be encouraged by their responses on why they plan to stay in their chosen profession:
“I love this job. It’s exhausting sometimes but I never hate the work.”
“Nursing is still a career path I am passionate about.”
Please note: this research is undergoing further analysis and the influence of working as student on graduate nurse transition and workforce development still needs to be examined in more detail.