Victoria University nursing students face unpaid placements of up to 12 weeks to complete degree

Nursing students at Melbourne’s Victoria University say they are struggling to make ends meet as they complete up to 12-week blocks of unpaid placements in order to graduate. 

Third-year Bachelor of Nursing student Gia (not her real name) said she knew her degree in healthcare would come with late nights and shift work when she signed up.

But she did not expect she would struggle to support herself through her studies.

Gia told ABC Radio Melbourne she, like many other students, was not able to undertake her first work placement until her final year of study because of COVID restrictions during 2020 and 2021.

As part of the Victoria University Bachelor of Nursing degree, students would normally do five 160-hour unpaid placements, each usually consisting of a four-week block, spread across the three-year course.

This is a model most universities use for students undertaking healthcare courses, and enables students to budget so they can prepare for each short block of unpaid work. 

However, due to pandemic restrictions, especially in Victoria, that only permitted hospital access to essential staff and patients for much of the past two years, many students have had to wait until this year to fulfil the work placement hours required to complete their degrees.   

The shadow of a woman's face, with curtains in the background.
The nursing student says she is exhausted trying to earn money between placements.(ABC Radio Melbourne: Zilla Gordon)

Gia said she was now trying to complete 500 unpaid hours before the end of the year, but did not think that would be possible, and feared her graduation may be delayed until next year.

However, she said she was one of the lucky ones.

“I only have eight weeks back-to-back allocated,” Gia said.

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