Student midwives share current experience with MPs

on 29 January 2021

On Monday (25 January), third year student midwives Jo Williams and Fiona Howard joined two student nurses and a number of British MPs, including Minister of Health and Social Care Helen Whatley, to share the current experience for healthcare students during the pandemic.

The focus of the roundtable was to present current state of affairs and call for more support for financial, mental, wellbeing and protection needs as the pandemic adds extra weight to the already existing inadequacy in the system.

Many students have been forced to take up part-time work in addition to demands of their degree both theory study and long hours working clinically. Students who are able to work through the pandemic have exposed themselves and their families to risk and trauma – and they have paid more than £9250 (one year’s tuition fees) for the privilege.

While employed, students were more likely to be put in positions where they were asked to act outside of their competence, and their learning was not prioritised. As a result, many students have fallen behind. They are now crumbling under the combined stress of working in understaffed, chaotic environments, keeping up with their studies, and remaining financially afloat.

The key asks on financial support:

  • A guarantee that any student who is unavoidably delayed in graduating will not be asked to pay additional tuition fees.
  • A guarantee that students who are unavoidably delayed in graduating will continue to have access to their Learning Support Fund.
  • Reimburse tuition fees or forgive current debt for all current nursing, midwifery, and allied healthcare students.
  • Immediately introduce universal, living maintenance grants that reflect actual student need.
  • Abolish student-funded tuition fees for all nursing, midwifery, and allied healthcare students starting in 2020/21 and beyond.

On protection, students have been told they will be treated no different to NHS employees when it comes to the Coronavirus Life Assurance (CLA) Scheme, however this eligibility is not written in stone. Students are asking for a guarantee that any healthcare student undertaking a clinical course will be eligible for the CLA Scheme.

On childcare, mother of two Fiona Howard shared how difficult it is to be a healthcare student and fulltime mum. The government must communicate clearly to headteachers that all healthcare students are bracted as key workers and for those who have very young children should be eligible for 30 hours of government funded childcare.

The combined impact of the stress of working in understaffed, chaotic environments, keeping up with their studies, and remaining financially afloat has taken a predictable toll on healthcare students mental health. Each student spoke bravely about their personal experience, one mentioned severe insomnia and called for comprehensive mental health support.