How Can We Keep Our Students and Ensure They Stay With The NHS?

Newly Qualified Midwife, Georgina, left the profession after graduating with a First Class degree: how can we prevent this?

Georgina Harrow

The recruitment and retention of student nurses and midwives is everybody’s business; everybody is a patient at some point in their lives. Patients deserve access to high quality care from a well-qualified workforce.

Equally, healthcare staff and students deserve to work in well-supported environments, with staffing levels that promote safe high-quality care. All students want is to be able to undertake their training in a field which they love safely and professionally.

Unfortunately, this is not possible with the current staff to patient ratios in the majority of areas and the in-balance between training and support. 

With being a newly qualified midwife myself, I come from an understanding of the pressures that the NHS and its staff are currently in. For the entirety of my life, I wanted to be a midwife. I grew up wanting to make a difference to peoples lives at such a vulnerable and life changing moment.

Georgina Student Midwife Graduation

I worked hard to get the grades to be accepted into University, but by the end of my three years of training I knew I didn’t want to be a midwife anymore. Despite achieving a First Class Honours and being awarded by the University for my efforts as a student, I instead felt I could see the changes that needed to be made, but couldn’t.

Personally, I left due to:

→ Inadequate pay and inability to pay for my education as well as cost of living
→ Staff shortages meant I wouldn’t get the support needed for my preceptorship
→ No work/life balance
→ Feeling undervalued
→ Too much pressure and stress as a trainee

All of which led to me to no longer feeling passionate about the job.

But there can be many reasons why students seek employment elsewhere once they have qualified, whether this is within the healthcare profession or not.

So, how do we ensure we keep our students and ensure they stay and work for the NHS?

I’m speaking to the choir, and of course of hot topic at this current time, but to burden student midwives and nurses with large amounts of debt that they will struggle to pay back, even with a modest NHS salary, isn’t acceptable (in my eyes).

We should be doing everything to make the NHS as attractive as possible, but the current system and the removal of the bursary is making students think about leaving before their careers have even begun. 

As a student in the healthcare space, you are expected to work alongside your degree to gain practical experience, rightly so. But this leads to students working for free, and being placed on rotas as full time staff, even when their training is not yet complete. Essentially, paying to work and learn, with another job on the side to make ends meet. Of critical importance should be offering more opportunities for students to train in a degree apprenticeship as it offers financial security and provides a flexible, work-based approach, combining University study and workplace learning.

Secondly, there needs to be more opportunities and support available for students as they are eager to learn and thrive on challenge and opportunity.

They look for ways to move up or take on new roles within the workplace, and value mentorship as a way to learn more and feel connected to a unified purpose – this is key to attracting and keeping students in the NHS.

And of course, ensuring a robust, standardised and supportive preceptorship is followed through is essential to attracting and retaining students and newly graduated midwives and nurses. Students should experience the utmost support throughout their training, and this should be followed through into their early careers. 

Recruitment and retention is not an abstract challenge: it is an immediate and urgent problem and it is everyone’s problem. But, if we can create a supportive, encouraging, safe environment from the beginning, perhaps we have a chance of helping to train our future nurses and midwives to be the very best that they can be, whilst also maintaining their own values and, crucially, their own wellbeing. 

In summary the key things which need change to drive are: 

 Back NHS degree apprenticeships on a large scale
Implement mandatory mentorship programmes
Ensure robust and standardised preceptorships are in place
Implement resilience and wellbeing training into midwifery and nursing courses
Break down the barriers of application from student to staff member

Georgina Harrow Circle

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Georgina Harrow

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