Written by Alyssa Walker

A quarter of all student nurses drop out before graduating, adding concerns to falling National Health Service (NHS) numbers. 

According to the Health Foundation, nursing workforce expert James Buchan, a professor in health and sciences, said, "Student nurse attrition has been for many years identified as a major problem for the UK, both in terms of the negative impact on individuals who leave programmes early, and also for the system at large, given nursing shortages are so prominent and increasing."

Ben Gershlick, Senior Economics Analyst at the Health Foundation, said, "While the attrition rate has remained fairly constant over the last decade, its impact is becoming more severe bearing in mind the overall shortage of nurses, vacancies in nursing posts and rising demand pressures on the NHS. The need for nurses trained in the UK has also increased as we have seen a recent fall in the inflow of nurses coming from abroad.

"Reducing attrition should be a crucial aspect of our overall approach to workforce planning. The long-term plan for the health service, which is currently in development, and the workforce strategy expected from Health Education England, need to bring a much more joined-up and strategic approach."

What does that strategic approach look like? It means making nursing is a more accessible career.

In an article in the Independent, Anne Corrin, Head of Professional Learning and Development at the Royal College London, calls for more support for student nurses.

She said,  “These figures are a stark and timely reminder of the need to properly support student nurses.

“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 labor.

“Nursing is a wonderful career, but student nurses face some of the most demanding workloads of any course."

Learn more about studying medical degrees in the UK. 


Alyssa Walker is a freelance writer, educator, and nonprofit consultant. She lives in the White Mountains of New Hampshire with her family.
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