RCN Scotland has raised concerns over a statement from the Scottish Government, which it says incorrectly implies that student nurses on clinical placements are acting as ‘additional staff’.
The Scottish Government said in a press release, released yesterday, that around 12,000 healthcare students starting placements this month will assist in the ‘safe delivery of care’ as services ‘respond to the pandemic’ – including more than 3,000 nursing and midwifery students.
But RCN Scotland’s interim director Colin Poolman said it is ‘concerning’ the official statement ‘implies that students are acting as additional staff’ to help with the Covid-19 response, when clinical placements are ‘actually a normal part of a student nurse’s education’.
He continued: ‘It is important to be clear that this cohort of nursing students are going into clinical areas to learn as part of their programme requirements, not to be part of the workforce.
‘It is absolutely vital that, even during the pandemic, nursing students have access to a safe and supportive learning environment and their supernumerary status as learners is retained.’
The press release called student placements in healthcare settings an ‘integral part’ of the ongoing response to Covid-19. It also stressed their importance for the ‘practical component of student learning’ and ‘accruing the hours necessary for registration’.
Health secretary Hamza Yousaf said: ‘We are fortunate to combine good quality learning attained by students as part of their supervised practice with the positive impact these students have on the delivery of safe, effective patient care and their ongoing support of our NHS.’
While on clinical placement, student nurses are supernumerary – meaning that they should not be countered as part of the workforce and are not deemed to be providing a service.
During the Covid-19 pandemic, final year nursing students were able to opt-in to the support the response to the Covid-19 pandemic via an extended and paid clinical placement. But the emergency standards allowing this was withdrawn in May 2021.
Nursing in Practice has contacted the Scottish Government for further comment.