A quarter of student nurses are dropping out of their courses before graduating, new research has found. This has prompted calls for more support to be given for those training for a career in the profession.
Nursing Standard and independent charity the Health Foundation studied data on trainee nurses leaving before finishing their degrees to establish just how high the drop-out rate is.
The figures have led to some expressions of alarm, due to the current shortage of nurses on hospital wards. Head of professional learning and development at the Royal College of Nursing Anne Corrin said it was a "stark and timely reminder of the need to properly support student nurses".
She added: "It is vital that student nurses have the opportunity to learn in placements - where they spend half their time - and are not relied upon to make up shortfalls in staffing numbers. They must not be exploited as cheap labour."
Ms Corrin suggested that student nurses face the "most demanding workloads of any course", which places them under considerable financial strain. The shortages of nurses in the health sector mean it has "never been more urgent" to tackle the issue, she concluded.
The problem has been more stark since the nursing bursary was axed last year, with the number of applications to nursing courses falling by a third. The figures for nursing course attrition rates have not themselves changed, as a previous Nursing Standard study in 2006 also indicated a quarter dropped out. However, the two factors combined have contrived to further shrink the pool of available nurses.
With recent data already showing that the number of nurses from the EU is falling due to lower immigration and more people returning to the continent, the level of shortages may be even more acute after Brexit.
As well as opening up opportunities for those who do complete the course, the situation also provides chances for former nurses to return to the profession if they wish to.
Written by James Puckle
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