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Reduce BN, BM and BNM Contact hours

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Dear Nursing and Midwifery administration team,

I am writing to you concerning the recent change to our timetable and placements.
Changes to the timetable are very different to previous years. As opposed to last year’s timetable, where students could expect 8-12 university contact hours (9.5-13.5 for midwifery), varying on a regular schedule, this year’s timetable is concerning. Students can expect anywhere between 3 and 16 (7-19 for midwifery) contact hours per week, with minimal regular schedule. For midwifery students, this does not include the extra hours they will have to put in for their Continuity of Cares. This has eradicated any sense of rhythm and predictability.
For student with children, they need to be able to arrange childcare. Not only is this costly, with costs ranging from $70/day up to $150/day. Accounting for 5 days a week of childcare, this will cost a family $350-$750. For full semester, this rises to $9,100-$19,500. Even accounting for the childcare rebate, families will be $1,487-$11,887 out of pocket per child. Compare this to last year: for 3 (1 placement, 2 university contact) days of childcare, a family would be $0-$4,807 out of pocket per child. Under the new timetabling, families will not only be worse off in terms of childcare costs, but they will also be under pressure due to limited work capabilities. With rising cost of living and childcare, it’s no wonder the families in our cohort are perturbed.
To remove weekend placements, and instead expect students to attend university and clinical placements on weekdays begs the question: how are students who work on weekdays meant to sustain themselves?
Many student need to work in order to support themselves. Not only are there several mature aged students in our cohort with children and without, but there are also a large number of students who no longer live with family and need to support themselves through working. Not all students have the convenience of being able to work on weekends due to a plethora of reasons including workplaces not being open on weekends, or having set hours.
As clinical placement is not paid, and there are very limited opportunities for financial assistance from both the School of Nursing, Midwifery, and Social Work as well as the University itself, students are deeply concerned and unhappy with the changes. Although UQ boasts its high number of clinical placements hours and in depth knowledge of the students and graduates alike, this shouldn’t happen by compromising the welfare of your students.
There seems to be a disconnect between the students and university currently. Although we are happy to work clinical hours and learn theory, we are still paying for a service and we are not getting financial reimbursement. Giving students no option but to spend all their weekdays at university and on placement, combined with the rigidity of the new schedule, and the lack of options for work, students are anxious about how they’ll manage this year. Whether it is having to drop to a single income for their family and pay for more childcare, or not being able to work weekends at their current job, or worrying about how they’ll pay their mortgage/rent, or simply, how will they have enough time to spend with their family. With all these and more, we are risking our mental health and efficiency in learning both in theory class and clinical placement.
As a solution, we would suggest lowering univeristy contact hours to two set days a week. Even if these days were longer, it would give students more freedom to be able to work, and make it easier on their employers. Adding weekend placements back would also allow students students who cannot work on weekends to be able to work. Even having clinical placement on the same 2 days per week would allow students much more flexibility with their work schedules.

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