Having worked for a number of years and completed all the available training as a caregiver in the broad intellectual disability field, I wanted to understand more anatomy and physiology, which I identified as a gap in my knowledge. So I completed a distance learning health science course which gave me the information I sought but also a motivation to go on to study full-time. After much searching, planning and fear, I recently began a Nursing Degree.

Six months into the course work I began a clinical placement, which is a NCNZ requirement of all nursing degrees. This amounts to hundreds of hours of unpaid labour or to use the euphemism, ‘experience’. Students are expected to fit into our 21st century lives of part-time work, family, kids and tight budgets, working for free. No rights, no contracts. In fact students pay hefty course fees. So in essence students are paying to work in private and public sector health arenas.

The caregivers who do their jobs unflinchingly hour by hour are not qualified to train student nurses but are required to. Some have shown students the ropes before and some have not. I have much work experience, as I expect have most of the mid to older students. Is this done to sort out the students who cannot stomach cleaning someone’s bowel motion at 6.30 am? If that is so, it is a brutal and counterproductive way to encourage learning.

I expect students who quit at this placement stage are seeing the hypocrisy of their learning against the real world examples and the lack of recognition by the education provider to question or hold to account the healthcare providers.

As students we learn cultural awareness, consent, infection control procedures, safe handling, ethics etc. Now on placement I see that this stuff is non-existent and my fellow students report the same. The answer from the duty RN to my comments on rough handling by a particular caregiver was to say they will not place me with them again – which is great, but did not address the real issue of mishandling and rushing residents in rest homes off to bed after dinner whether they wanted or not.

Going by the attitude of my tutors and RNs at the facility, this seems an endemic rest home trait and a horrible problem the industry must address with staffing and resources. But using unpaid unskilled and vulnerable student nurses as cheap labour is gross misconduct. Our nurse tutors know the deal as they set up the placements. They build the relationships with the homes to fulfill the course requirements. And the rest home/mental health unit/hospital get free labour. Students are not getting training that is overseen by an RN or 9-5 polytechnic tutor and what we students are observing is a lack of infection control. A lack of ethical consideration and a lack of education from our education providers. All the while completing paper work around ethics and how we observe the Treaty being upheld in our care setting and what we do to build therapeutic relationships while shoving old frail people into diapers without time to see what they really want. Great training for elder abuse. Bad training for future dedicated nurses.



  1. Well written article with so much truth to it. Thank you for writing this and arranging publication.

    Having had nursing training, been aiding, and also registered as an enrolled nurse over a period of many years, I note that nothing seems to have changed in all that time. Quite sad to find that improvements and recognition of the good and the bad ethics are not dealt with appropriately.
    Poor clients / patients who have little say in their care.

    Shame on the senior staff / tutors for not addressing the uncaring, sometimes cruel behaviour when it has been reported. (Great lesson to give trainee nursing students!)

    What can be done to change the bad behaviour of some carers from the Victorian times to the 21st century expectations?


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