Many nurses and midwives feel unprepared and unsupported in first roles

More help needed from government and employers for new health staff

More than two thirds (70%) of students or newly qualified nurses and midwives believe they have missed out on important learning experiences during Covid, says a UNISON report today (Wednesday).

The findings also show more than half (56%) of final year students worry they’re not as prepared for qualification as they should be, according to a snapshot survey of those in the UK who completed their studies in the pandemic.

Many student nurses and midwives had their studies disrupted as a result of deployment to hospital wards and the addition of other responsibilities during the pandemic.

UNISON says the government and NHS leaders now need to give greater support to the newly qualified health staff as they grapple with difficult workloads in their first full-time roles.

Inadequate support has been a major issue for many nurses and midwives beginning their careers. Three fifths (60%) of those in work said the pressures have already made them consider leaving their jobs. A similar proportion (62%) say they are regularly anxious and stressed by their roles.

Nearly nine in ten (89%) agree guaranteed, regular and paid “protected time” – that means time away from clinical work – for learning and development, and for looking after their own wellbeing, is useful or essential.

The same proportion (89%) believe it would be useful or essential for their employer to guarantee time to adjust to their new jobs where they are not considered part of the staff.

More than four in five (84%) would like study days that are protected and regular. And more than three quarters (76%) agree that, in their first year of work, there should be more structure to the “preceptorship” programme, where more experienced staff provide guidance.

UNISON says these preceptorships should include at least one month where they’re not included in normal staffing numbers; a minimum of one day a month for learning, development and wellbeing; and for clinical leaders to provide them with career support and development which takes place away from clinical duties.

The survey findings are backed up by focus group discussions held by UNISON with student nurses, practising nurses and educators.

UNISON national officer for nursing Stuart Tuckwood said: “Unprecedented demands have been placed on student nurses and midwives during Covid.

“Constructive and meaningful support in the workplace is vital for those newly qualified so they can fulfil their potential. Some may lack confidence because they’ve missed out on some training opportunities.

“Health service leaders promised no student would be disadvantaged by their experiences during the pandemic. They must now support students who came to the rescue of the NHS when asked. This is to ensure they not only stay in their new roles but also thrive.”

Newly qualified nurse Joy O’Gorman did emergency placements during the pandemic to support the NHS.

UNISON’s national student nurse lead Ms O’Gorman said: “Students have done amazingly well to complete their studies. But many feel they’ve missed out on important experiences and worry how they’ll cope beginning their careers at this difficult time.

“It’s really important the NHS and other employers support UNISON’s calls for a little extra support in the workplace. It’s vital we’re supported and feel safe in our roles as newly qualified health staff. Otherwise, we fear we won’t be able to achieve our full potential as nurses and midwives.”

Notes to editors:
– For a full copy of the report, click here. A total of 182 student and newly qualified nurses and midwives took part in the survey, and 122 completed it in full.
– UNISON is the UK’s largest union with more than 1.3 million members providing public services in education, local government, the NHS, police service and energy. They are employed in the public, voluntary and private sectors.

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