Undergraduate nursing students across Canada complete hundreds of hours in academic placements in addition to lectures, labs, coursework, family responsibilities, and employment. Students are expected to complete upwards of 800 hours at many schools throughout their degree. In the upper years of many nursing programs, students are completing full-time hours for placements. At several schools, students are expected to avoid working during full-time placements.
Some are even given official letters to their employers asking to excuse them from working during that period. Many full-time placement periods are approximately two months long, working eight or 12-hour shifts. Nursing students are usually responsible for any transportation expenses.
Students who do not have financial support from family or any other source of income must continue working while completing full-time placement. Other professional programs include paid co-ops such as engineering, business, and several science programs. Nursing is a rigorous program not unlike any other professional program.
D.B, a third-year nursing student in the greater Toronto area, knows the challenges of managing financial stability and full-time clinical placements.
“We should have some pay! Nursing students should earn minimum wage at least for consolidations and the last year of placements. How are we supposed to support ourselves completing full-time hours without pay?” D.B said.
M.S, a recent nursing graduate in southwestern Ontario, also shared their struggle between finances and pursuing their nursing aspirations.
“If I was at least making minimum wage while in full-time placements, I could have afforded to take fewer student loans! As a single mother, it was difficult to convince my employer to accommodate my already full-time schedule during my final year and consolidation placements.”
N.K, a nursing student in the Greater Toronto Area, described some of their clinical placements as “free labour.”
N.K said, “I am a mature student. I remember finding out my student loan funding was recalculated and delayed during consolidation. I was running out of savings in the middle of my full-time placement. I had to take a temporary leave from my part-time job for this placement as they couldn’t [accommodate] my full-time clinical schedule. I was so stressed and trying to find any job that would not interfere with my clinical schedule. It was hard to focus on the clinical experience while worrying whether I’d have to go to a food bank soon.”
The thought of paid nursing student clinical placements sounds wonderful to many Canadian nursing students. However, where would the money come from if such a decision were to be made? Who would fund and administer this endeavour? Who would be eligible?
Are there any potential cons to having paid clinical placements for nursing students? How would hospitals and community agencies react to having to pay nursing students? Paying nursing students for clinical placements could affect the potential availability of willing agencies to partner with nursing schools and provide clinical experiences.
Maintaining a balance between financial stability and clinical placements is an issue familiar to many nursing students across Canada. The nursing student population may desire paid academic placements; however, the current feasibility and implications require further investigation and consideration.