Mr Osborne recently announced he plans to "lift the cap" on student nursing numbers. What he did not mention, however, in his spending review, was how he plans to so: by introducing tuition fees and removing the NHS bursary for all allied health professionals.
You may be asking what is wrong with this. After all, student nurses are students after all. Why should we not have to pay? What makes us so special?
To explain this, I think it's easier to describe my average week, as an average student.
Today I have placement. I start at 7am, on a busy medical admissions ward. I receive handover, and work with all other staff to make sure the bay of eight patients we are responsible for are well looked after. I give personal care, I administer medications, I admit patients onto the ward, I hold people's hands that are scared. I don't sit down until 11.30: my first break.
I go back to the ward after 15 minutes. I again, do all the things a nurse does until I realise at 5pm I haven't had a drink since 11.30. The ward is short staffed, and everyone is incredibly busy: I'm not alone in this. I go for a break and something to eat whilst there is time.
I finish at 7.30pm, I have a headache from not drinking all day, and my feet are swollen from being stood up all day.
I get back home at 8pm. I have to maintain my portfolio: all nurses are required to have one by the NMC. I write a reflective piece on something I did for the first time that day. I finish at 9pm.
Today I have placement again. The day is much the same as yesterday, except when I get home at 8pm, I work on my essay. I finish at 10pm.
Today is my day off placement. I spend it in the library, working on an essay due in soon.
Placement again today. It's a night shift this time, from 7pm until 7.30am. It is very similar to a day shift in this busy environment. I get into bed at 8am, Friday morning.
I wake up at 4pm. Annoyed at myself for sleeping so late, although I do have work again tonight, in my job as a healthcare assistant. I quickly do some housework (I am 27-years-old and live with my husband). I do some more work on my essay. I leave for work at 9pm. I'll finish at 8am, Saturday morning.
I get home at 9am, crawl into bed, and wake up at 1pm. I'm exhausted at this point. I work more on my essay for a few hours, very aware of the mountain of work I have. I have barely seen my family this week: I'm very lucky in how supportive they are and understand when I snap at them because I'm tired.
I have a day off, finally!
So you see, we are not average students. This is my routine for at least half the year. The other half, I am in lectures for most of the week, and use the opportunity of having extra free time to work a few more shifts, or do as much of any assignments we have as possible. I don't have Easter holidays, or a summer break. Our course allows us six weeks off each year.
The bursary exists as acknowledgement of the service student nurses provide. To take this away, we will be paying £50,000 over the three years. Would you pay this for my average week?
Nursing is by no means a profession entered for financial reasons. It is something you go into because you care deeply about helping people. You want to make a difference, and a thank you off someone can make it all seem worthwhile when you're at the end of a busy shift.
For too long, nurses have been a profession that provides a service ran on good will. They have seen pay freezes, work below safe staffing numbers.
Student nurses are not asking for special treatment. We are asking for fair treatment, something that has not been granted to our registered counterparts. George Osborne's announcement prompted me to start a petition on the government website asking that the NHS bursary be retained: 150,000 signatures to date, and a debate in parliament on the 11 January.
Thank you, Mr Osborne, for mobilising this demoralised workforce, and reminding us to care about ourselves as much as we do our patients.Suggest a correction