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Final year student nurses to rejoin Covid-19 fight

Student nurses

Final year student nurses are being called on to help relieve the ‘extreme pressure’ on the workforce caused by the Covid-19 pandemic by taking up paid placements once again.

The Nursing and Midwifery Council yesterday announced it will reintroduce emergency standards allowing them to undertake extended clinical placements for some or all their third-year programme if they wish to do so.

The nursing regulator said the move was in response to a request from health and social care secretary Matt Hancock on 13 January after the healthcare services came ‘under increasing and extreme pressure’ in recent weeks.

NMC chief executive Andrea Sutcliffe said: ‘The changes we’ve made today will enable students to continue learning, while at the same time, allowing those student nurses in their final year to contribute to the fight against Covid-19 where they wish to do so.’

First year nursing and midwifery students are to focus on academic and online learning rather than clinical placements, if necessary, in some regions of the UK.

Universities will be able to decide how they use the options set out in the standards, while local health and care services will develop guidance tailored to local circumstances – including decisions on pay for students working in clinical practice.

All other undergraduate nursing and midwifery students and postgraduate diploma or master’s students will continue to have supernumerary status when on clinical placements.

Final year students were also mobilised during the first wave of the pandemic, while second- and third-year students could spend 80% of their time in paid clinical practice. These emergency standards were withdrawn in July so students could return to supernumerary status by the end of September.

Ms Sutcliffe said: ‘I’m enormously grateful to each and every student for coping with such change and disruption to their studies at this challenging time. Their dedication and hard work fills me with enormous pride and hope for the future.

‘I look forward to welcoming them onto our permanent register as registered professionals in the months and years to come.’

Health Education England chief nurse Mark Radford said: ‘Whilst we hoped we would not need to take this action again we once again ask our third years to be part of the response.

‘We will work with partners to ensure all students are supported which ever year group, wherever they work, and that they learn and develop as well as provide support to the NHS.’