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The Minnesota Daily

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Opinion: Nursing students should be financially compensated

Financial compensation could be an hourly minimum wage or grants.
Image by Ava Weinreis
Nursing students should have access to free campus resources for well-being support.

Post-secondary learning demands a lot from all students who pursue it.

However, it can be especially taxing on students choosing careers within the STEM field.

I may be a Communication Studies major, but I am currently living with two women passionately working toward a degree in nursing.

The University of Minnesota School of Nursing is a highly competitive department that admits approximately 289 students per year to the first-year nursing program, according to the University’s website.

Not only do I hear from my roommates about the rigorous course load they are expected to complete each semester, but I also regularly witness them preparing for 12-hour overnight shifts at local hospitals for work and then again for their required clinical hours.

While all these expectations for nursing students fly way over my head, I’m fortunate enough to live with women who regularly complete this work.

But what exactly does a clinical rotation consist of and how do they help nursing students learn about the field?

Alfonso Amores, a fourth-year nursing student, said clinical work varies based on the student’s skill level, but generally provides hands-on learning experiences in a variety of medical settings — mental health units, medical-surgical units, labor and delivery units, for example — allowing each student to practice necessary skills used in the field.

On top of being a full-time student and participating in required clinical rotations, most nursing students add a part-time job to their schedule to help with the general cost of living.

Conrad Noel, a fourth-year nursing student, said financial compensation should be provided for nursing students as most of them cannot carve out more time for their paid positions due to their clinical experience requirements and other educational commitments. He said that while it wouldn’t be fair to provide nursing students with a registered nurse’s salary, it would benefit students to receive some form of payment or, at the very least, free parking when showing up to their off-campus clinical sites.

Oppositely, Amores said nursing students shouldn’t be getting paid for the work they do at their clinicals as they are not yet registered nurses and can’t quite provide the same level of care as experienced nurses.

“My overarching view is that we as nursing students shouldn’t see it as work even though it does oftentimes feel like that,” Amores said. “It’s important to make the distinction that we are here as learners. We’re here as students. We’re not here as workers.”

While they may disagree on the idea of receiving hourly wages for clinical work, both Amores and Noel have a problem with paying for parking at their clinical locations.

“There’s nothing more debilitating than having to go somewhere where you’re not getting paid and then you pay to park,” Amores said.

This issue is made worse by the fact that students have to find their own means of transportation to their clinical sites and often have no choice but to commute via car or Uber due to distance, according to Amores.

Even though clinicals do negatively affect nursing students in many ways — financially, emotionally and physically — they also provide them with real-life experiences that prepare them for the field once they graduate, which make students exponentially more confident in their abilities as future nurses.

Both Amores and Noel said they are beyond grateful for the experiences they’ve had and the lessons they’ve learned over the hours of clinical work they’ve completed. They feel the University’s nursing program does an excellent job of preparing students efficiently and thoroughly.

As for financial compensation for nursing students, this labor should receive payment. Whether through parking compensation, hourly minimum wage or a percentage off their tuition. 

This work shouldn’t be completed for free simply because they’re inexperienced college students. They’re the future of healthcare and should be recognized as such.

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