COVID-19: students are ready to support the nursing workforce

Final-year nursing students like me are preparing to move to the front line of the COVID-19 crisis

Students on the frontline of COVID-19 crisis

I write this during a strange period of limbo.

As a final-year children’s nursing student, I should be starting a 14-week management placement, polishing my clinical skills and decision-making abilities with dedicated support from a sign-off mentor.

But the unprecedented public health emergency of the coronavirus pandemic means I am sitting in my living room instead.

I am waiting for details of a final placement allocation that could allow me to join the COVID-19 emergency register and enter clinical practice much sooner than expected.

The emergency register is part of the Coronavirus Act 2020, new legislation that, among other things, allows the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) to give temporary registration to nurses who have left practice in the past three years, as well as to willing and eligible final-year nursing students.

Under emergency measures approved by the NMC, final-year students with less than six months left on their undergraduate programmes will have the option to finish their courses on paid, extended clinical placements – without supernumerary status – to support the nursing workforce during the COVID-19 outbreak.

A student support guide – issued on 27 March by Health Education England, in partnership with NHS England and NHS Improvement – sets out the details and the position for nursing students in the first and second years of study and those in the early stages of their third year.

The remuneration for final-year students is being decided separately by the four UK countries. Northern Ireland has confirmed that students joining the register will be paid at band 5, while students in England and Scotland will initially be paid at band 4.

Final-year nursing students like me, who would have been completing management placements, are being offered the opportunity to join the workforce.

As an elected student representative, I am in contact with students at my university who are affected by this; many are excited and feel prepared to contribute their talent, skills and knowledge.  They are grateful for the prospect of being paid while working in the capacity of a nursing student.

By Eden Baker, a final-year children’s nursing student at Queen’s University Belfast

This is an abridged version of the article COVID-19: students are ready to support the nursing workforce – with your help that was first published on Nursing Standard as part of the free COVID-19 resource centre, created to support all nurses and healthcare professionals during this challenging period as they care for coronavirus patients.

The COVID-19 resource centre includes evidence-based clinical articles and "how-to" guides, the latest news, policy updates and a selection of relevant RCNi Learning modules.

It is hoped that nurses and student nurses will share it with colleagues and across their networks to help healthcare professionals battle against COVID-19 and bring the outbreak under control.

Visit the Nursing Standard COVID-19 resource centre

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