Preliminary findings of the National Nursing Student Survey show that managing fatigue, responding to emotional stress, and finances are all issues that students want more support with.

More than 920 students responded to the anonymous online survey held two-yearly by the National Student Unit of the NZNO.

Phoebe Webster, the national chair of the student unit, said it was decided as part of the 2017 survey to look at student self-care as this was a “huge” issue for students and obviously nurses as well.

“The idea is that you start as you go on.” And the concern was that if students didn’t develop good self-care habits during their nursing training this was unlikely to change when they became a new graduate and increased the potential they would burnout in the years to come,” said Webster, who presented on the preliminary findings to nursing schools recently.

Sally Dobbs, chair of Nursing Education in the Tertiary Sector (NETS), said the survey presentation highlighted some of the concerns that Heads of School were also noticing around student health. “Certainly from our perspective and their perspective there’s a definite synergy there in terms of some the issues raised by the students.” This included financial and health issues, she said.

Webster said this year’s survey looked at how nursing schools were promoting and supporting students to be well in themselves so they could “do their jobs when out there in the real world”. It also looked at the self-care knowledge and behaviours of nursing students.

The survey asked students for feedback on a number of areas, including whether their schools provided health care and child care facilities, talked about managing fatigue and shift work, provided cultural and religious support on campus, and promoted wellness in general.

Phoebe said for the most part schools were doing an “awesome” job in supporting students. Preliminary findings were presented to a recent NETS meeting and the full survey results are expected to be released shortly.

The findings released to date show that the issues flagged by students as significant and needing more resources or information included managing fatigue and shift work, financial difficulties, managing the emotional response to relatives in distress, and gender identity.

NZNO researcher Dr Jinny Wills said the largest proportion of respondents (41%) was aged 18-21 years and for many of them their nursing training was the first time they had faced grieving and distressed families, so the survey highlighted that students wanted more support in that area.

Also raised were concerns about financial issues and having support available to “nip in the bud” the risk of financial difficulties getting to the stage where students couldn’t continue with their studies. Jinny Wills said nursing students faced the particular issue of long clinical placements making it difficult to undertake part-time work. In addition, around a third of student respondents had responsibilities for children and family members.

Wills said the survey showed that students who had accessed student health services or resources available at their school had been very pleased, with 85 per cent of respondents rating them highly.

Student health issues

Dobbs said schools had been noticing some health issues, and particularly mental health issues, becoming more prevalent amongst some of the younger students.

She said some students are entering programmes having declared they have been treated for depression or anxiety and had health professional sign-off that they were ready for nursing study. “But then various stresses take over and they realise they can’t cope.”

Dobbs said this could be challenging as under the Health Practitioner Competence Assurance Act nursing schools had to be satisfied a student was both mentally and physically fit to be put forward for nurse registration.

Dobbs noted that the survey’s findings were positive overall about the support services available to students. NETS was looking forward to further analysis of the survey findings on how students viewed the pros and cons of online learning.


The survey had 922 respondents; 90 per cent were enrolled in the bachelor of nursing degree and all nursing schools were represented.

Age of student respondents

18-21 years               42%

22-25 years               16%

26-30 years               13%

31-40 years               15%

40 years or older        14%


Ethnicity* of student respondents to survey:

New Zealand European      70.0%

Māori                               16.6%

Pacific                               6.9%

Asian                                17%

Other                                10%

*Respondents could report more than one ethnicity



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