DMU graduate campaigns for more rights for student nurses

By Beatriz Abreu Ferreira 

A graduate from De Montfort University has started a petition with more than 250,000 signatures calling for student nurses’ debt to be written off and their future tuition fees to be abolished.

Jessica Collins, better known through her blog Student Nurse Mummy, decided to start campaigning after experiencing the struggles of many student nurses.

“As student nurses we have to do 2,300 hours of clinical work, and I was trying to do assignments and night shifts, day shifts.

“It got to a point where I was really struggling to keep a work-life balance. So when I found out that I accrued a student debt of £66,000 during the three years of my degree, I was quite shocked. It got to a point that I had to do something about it,” Jessica said.

The young nurse started a petition, which has now more than 250,000 signatures, to get the Government to write off student nurses’ debt and abolish future tuition fees. 

Her petition got so much attention that Jessica had the opportunity to go on the Good Morning Britain television show to explain her campaign.

“I got a reply from the Minister of Care saying students weren’t paid on placement because they weren’t deemed to be offering a service to the NHS.

“Being a student nurse, that was one of the most offensive things someone could have said to me.

“We work really, really hard, we help with everything. It’s not just learning because we take our own patients and we do our own things. So for a Minister of Care to say that, it was really shocking.

“We work so hard, we do night shifts, day shifts, we work on holidays, and we don’t get paid at all. We are paying the government to even be there working.

“At the moment there are student nurses going to food banks just to eat, and many work 40 hours for their placement, but need to have another job on the side, while doing assignments as well,” she continued.

After the coronavirus pandemic, student nurses all over the country have been called up to help and Jessica was one of those who decided to go to the frontline. 

“The government gave us an option to extending our placements and have suddenly offered us band 4 pay if we help.

“However, they found a loophole in our opt-in contracts, to enable them to stop paying students for risking their lives at the earliest opportunity,” she said.

Frustrated by this decision and after not getting any useful replies from the Government, Jessica decided to publish an open letter to Boris Johnson on her Facebook page.

“Dear Boris, I don’t know if you’ll see this, I’m not entirely sure if many people will see it at all but I feel like there’s things I need to say and my letters are just never responded to. Maybe if this is shared enough, it could reach you eventually. Miracles happen,” she wrote.

Her Facebook post was shared more than 87,000 times. It gathered so much attention that CNN international news invited her to talk about the issues she had raised.

“When I went on CNN international news, they said they will ask the PM to comment but he never did.

“I then had a telephone meeting with the Minister of Care but it wasn’t very helpful, she just said she didn’t has a magic wand to change anything,” Jessica explained. 

“I hope the Government will realise the mistakes they have made and how badly they have treated the future generation of nurses.

“I hope they scrap the student debt, and I hope in the future there is more support to all student nurses,” she added.

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