Concerns about the financial pressures facing student nurses and newly qualified staff, along with the negative impact these have on workforce retention, are never far from the headlines.
Just last month, an influential health think tank recommended that nurses’ student debt should be cleared after 10 years’ service to tackle the drop-out crisis taking place in the NHS. Likewise, in its 2 October 1948 issue, Nursing Times covered the introduction of training allowances for student nurses, which were seen as a “tremendous achievement” at the time.
We reported that, from 1 January 1949, student nurses were to be recognised financially as students in their own right, following a decision by the Nurses and Midwives Whitley Council. A training allowance of £200 a year – equivalent to around £9,300 in today’s money – was to be given to students. However, out of this allowance, they would be required to pay for their living accommodation, noted the report under the headline ‘New perspectives’.
Nursing Times editor of the time, Marjorie Wenger, described it as a “timely development”, which was the result of “prolonged and persistent striving by those who have held fast to the idea of the dignity of professional training”.
She also highlighted that, as nursing was a female-dominated profession, the allowance was an important step towards nurses being able to be independent. As an example, she noted that, in the past, nurses had largely been dependent on the institution in which they worked for their welfare, with most living in hospital accommodation. The new allowance would give them the opportunity to potentially live in the community and, as a result, be more a part of it, rather than being “enclosed and isolated” in a hospital environment.
Ms Wenger noted that it remained to be seen whether the move would lead to fewer students “living in”, due to general financial constraints, a shortage of accommodation and the early and late hours associated with nursing shifts. However, she did suggest that, those factors notwithstanding, the allowance meant that students would at least now have the choice.
“The students have called for student status [and] they must, therefore, take far greater responsibility for themselves and for their health,” she wrote. “The student nurses, naturally, [believe] that, if considered responsible in the wards, they should be given equal responsibility for themselves,” she added.
Meanwhile, further on in the issue, the subject of pay for trained NHS nurses was the subject of a news report. During a meeting in September, the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) had recommended that the Whitley Council be urged to “take immediate steps to improve the salaries of trained nurses in the National Health Service”.
The RCN, Nursing Times reported, was investigating the salaries of nurses in comparison with those of other types of staff working in the NHS. It stated that, per year, a physiotherapist in their first post received £100 (£4,650 in 2023) more for a 36-hour week than a newly qualified staff nurse, whose working week was “never less” than 48 hours.
The report added: “Now the first step of placing the student remuneration on a satisfactory basis has been achieved, the RCN is pressing…[for] urgent steps to remedy the situation in regard to the trained nurses’ salaries.”
On another topic, given the recent news about a national NHS uniform for England, it seems appropriate to mention that the 1948 issue also contained details of new uniforms for health service nurses of the time. “
An attractive new uniform has been designed for the state-registered nurse and the state-enrolled assistant nurse,” reported Nursing Times.
“The uniforms are almost identical in cut, but the navy blue of the state-registered nurse’s outdoor uniform is, at once, distinctive from the dark green of the state-enrolled assistant nurse’s overcoat and costume.”
It added: “Show styles are not stipulated but must be in navy or black for the state-enrolled nurse and brown for the state-enrolled assistant nurse, and any coloured stockings may be worn with both uniforms.”
Also published in the 2 October 1948 edition was a prize-winning student essay by Alma James, a student nurse at Kent and Sussex Hospital in Tunbridge Wells, who had written about the care of a patient with tetanus.
To view the Nursing Times Archive, visit: nursingtimes.net/digital-archive
Step back in time with the Nursing Times Archive
Nursing Times has launched an online archive of its print issues, meaning subscribers can now dip into the history of nursing at the touch of a button.
Readers can discover how nursing has changed over the decades with each issue containing stories, features and even adverts offering a fascinating insight into the profession and much more.
The Nursing Times Archive is an exciting new addition to our brand and a great resource that can be accessed directly from the Nursing Times website.
The archive represents over a 100 years of nursing history, starting with the first print issue of Nursing Times published on 6 May 1905.
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