Inclusion in Healthcare: Student Nurses Share Their Stories

Written by: Rebecca Rhead and the Tackling Inequalities and Discrimination Experiences in health Services (TIDES) study team

What is this study about?

This study examined the experiences of student nurses when they worked in hospitals in London. We focused on two groups: students from different ethnic backgrounds and students who are White and British. We wanted to see if there were any differences in their experiences during their time in the hospitals. 

Sculpture in front of a fountain (HERON SELPh 2019 Exhibition).

How did they do the study?

The researchers talked to 21 student nurses who were working in hospitals. They asked them questions and listened to what they said. Then, the researchers looked at all the answers and tried to find common themes or ideas. They wanted to understand what the student nurses were saying and find patterns in their responses. 

What did they find?

The researchers talked to people and found five main themes: 

1) mentors

2) unfair treatment

3) speaking up

4) moving forward in their careers

5) bad things happening because of their experiences. 

They learned that the way people treated each other and the environment in the workplace (called ‘ward culture’) made it seem okay for student nurses to be treated badly.

Students from different ethnic backgrounds said they experienced racism and hurtful comments based on their culture or religion.

White British students also faced unfair treatment based on their age, sex, gender, or who they liked.

Both groups of students agreed that being treated badly made it harder for them to succeed in their careers.

Ethnic minority students also said that seeing a lack of diversity among senior nurses made them less likely to want to work in the NHS.

Why are these findings important?

These findings are important because they show that the way student nurses are treated in the beginning can affect how they see their job and if they can move forward in their nursing career. When mistreatment is seen as normal in the nursing environment, it puts ethnic minority students at a disadvantage.

They feel like they are not valued and this can affect how long they stay in their job and how far they can go in their career in the NHS. Researchers suggest that the people who assess the students during their training should know about this unfair treatment and work to stop it.

This will help ensure that all student nurses have the same opportunities to grow, no matter what their ethnicity is. 

A tree in a park (HERON SELPh 2019 Exhibition).

What can I do with this?

I am NHS staff: You can present this summary to your manager or supervisor as evidence of your health struggles, lack of enjoyment, and difficulty in coming to work. Use it to request additional support.

I am NHS staff manager: Use this summary to provide support for your staff. Don’t forget to reach out to student nurses and make sure they’re receiving the support they need. 

I am a researcher: This study can be used to support further research on the experiences and outcomes of NHS staff from ethnic minority groups, especially those who are new to their careers. It can also help evaluate interventions that aim to reduce ethnic inequalities in the healthcare industry.

I am a student: This study can be used as a reference in your essays or assignments. It can also help support your feedback on your course experiences and those of others.

I want to know more!

Read the primary paper here: 

Walker, C.R., Gunasinghe, C., Harwood, H., Ehsan, A., Ahmed, F., Dorrington, S., Onwumere, J., Meriez, P., Stanley, N., Stoll, N., Woodhead, C., Hatch, S.L., Rhead, R. (2023) Ethnic inequalities during clinical placement: a qualitative study of student nurses’ experiences within the London National Health Service.  Journal of Advanced Nursing. DOI: 10.1111/jan.15891