14 Nov 2022

Nursing students call for paid placements - Shane Reti responds

From Checkpoint, 5:37 pm on 14 November 2022

Third year nursing students are pleading to be paid during their hospital placements with many feeling broken and abused by the system before they are even fully trained. 

On Checkpoint on Friday Health Minister Andrew Little conceded students should probably get some form financial support in the last year of their study and the issue's under discussion.  

Third year AUT trainee nurses have described travelling long distances to unpaid hospital placements that are up to 40 hours a week and having to cover the cost of petrol  uniforms and food, while studying and holding down paid work too. 

Forty percent plus of AUT nursing students do not graduate.

National's health spokesperson Dr Shane Reti conceded nursing students on placement were in a difficult position, but said National would look at what other financial assistance could be provided.  

If nursing students got paid during their third year placements, then other students in essential services with third year placements would also need to be paid, Reti said.

"If we were to pay trainee nurses, then we also should pay fourth and fifth year medical students, final year engineers in certain scopes of practise and so one would have to say that it would then spread across all of them, that's a much much bigger discussion."

The prime issue was the cost of living, he said.

Macro-economic issues, as well as things like student support needed to be looked at to address the issue, he said.

No other Five Eyes country pays their third year nursing students so New Zealand is in keeping with its international peers, he said.

"They [nursing students] email me every day as well, absolutely understand that the cost of living is really hurting them and they're having to make choices and that choice sometimes is to leave their career - and that's what we need to figure out."

If nurses were paid for their placements, there would be questions about all the other students being paid who are also doing praktikums and training in essential services, Reti said.

Other ways of assisting these nursing students could be looked at, he said.

"We'd want to think about is there travel allowance, is there uniform allowance, could it be through accommodation allowance - what parts of cost of living could we most have impact with while we're looking to pull the main cost of living levers."

It was important to look at how to retain nursing students given 14 percent left in year one and 29 percent had left by year five of a graduating class, Reti said.