As a student nurse we are classed as supernumerary – at least that’s what the NMC says – and what this means is we shouldn’t be counted in the numbers; nurses or support workers. We’re meant to be able to access learning opportunities as they present themselves, and seek them out ourselves.
That’s the theory anyway.
In reality, from what I’ve experienced a lot of places can run short staffed for whatever reason, be it illness or an oversight on the off duty rota. Now the standard procedure is to call in bank staff, off duty regular staff or as a last resort call agency staff. Fair one, you’ve got to cover the shift for safety’s sake and the smooth running of the environment.
Again, that’s the theory. Most places would rather go short staffed than pay for agency. So that begs the question, what do you do? The frequent answer is to use (and abuse) students, get them do direct patient care.
Now I have no objection to putting on some gloves and giving direct patient care, my background of almost a decade as a healthcare assistant means I’m pretty well versed in the methods involved in ridding an anal sphincter of faeces. I do have a most vociferous objection to students like myself being used to make up the numbers of support workers when an area is short staffed, especially when I’m already quite busy chasing up various drugs from the pharmacy, scripts from the various GPs in the area and trying to get them to work together.
I find it especially annoying when, the very next day,without a hint of irony my mentor said to a colleague “I’m not on the floor, I’m supernumerary”
I understand that this is common practice amongst placements, and not restricted just to my own personal experience.