Why Are Student Nurses Dropping Out?

Student nurses are dropping out at a rapid rate, according to recent statistics. Analysis by Nursing Standard magazine and the Health Foundation reported in the Guardian claimed that, of the 16,000 students due to graduate in 2017, more than 4,000 quit their degrees or suspended their studies. This amounts to an attrition rate of 24%, a statistic that has remained stagnant since 2006, according to the research.

Why do student nurses quit?

Following these reports, the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) warned that students are being put off by “bad experiences” in hospitals and clinics due to understaffing and long working hours. Financial struggles and academic pressures were also listed as some of the main reasons why student nurses didn’t make it to graduation.

The Health Foundation also pointed out that the government has recently replaced NHS bursaries for student nurses with a tuition fee and loans system, as with other degree courses. This shift has deeply impacted the financial health of student nurses and provided less incentive for them to continue studying.

On top of stagnant wages (the average of which is £23,000) student nurses are now required to pay back their student loans after they graduate. As a result, the number of applications to UK nursing and midwifery courses fell by 23% in 2017.

What does the attrition rate mean for the NHS?

While the attrition rate has remained constant over the last decade, it hasn’t risen. However, its impact is becoming more severe due to the shortage of NHS nurses in general – made worse by the falling numbers of nurses coming to the UK from overseas.

Coupled with reducing pressures in the medical workforce, reducing the number of student nurses who drop out before graduation should be a key part of NHS workforce planning.

Should you still choose a nursing career?

While the dropout rate of student nurses is a major concern, the government are pledging to tackle this crisis in their 10-year plan. Still, we need to ensure we recruit enough nurses to meet the growing demands on the NHS, as well as an ever-increasing population. This involves training the right student nurses and educating students so they know what they’re getting into when they enter the profession.

Nursing is a great career. Despite all we hear about the problems in the NHS and the changes in funding students while they study, it’s still a very attractive option,” Lynn Eaton, Editor of Nursing Standard

Could flexible nursing careers be the solution?

As a result of the recruitment and retention issues in the nursing profession, many student nurses are looking for more flexible ways to work after graduation. For example, many considers roles as practice nurses within a GP office or out-of-hours (OOH) facility.

If you want to work as a nurse but you’re put off by bad experiences as a student, don’t rule out other ways or working. Visit our recruitment page to find the latest nurse positions and job adverts, or call us on 03000 243 333 for friendly career advice.