COVID-19 advice for students and trainee nursing associates

As we move into the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, the priority is to support students to complete their studies and complete educational programmes on time. There is currently no intention to return to the option of paid clinical placements. 

The NMC have now withdrawn standards 1, 2 and 3 of the Emergency standards for nursing and midwifery education. These will be replaced with Recovery standards. In practice, this means that all students will be returning to supernumerary status for their clinical placements. Read more on the NMC website.  

 

In specific geographical areas, UK governments and devolved administrations have applied localised restrictions in response to increases in COVID-19 cases. You can find an up to date list of areas subject to additional restrictions in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.  

It is the responsibility of the educational provider to organise suitable clinical placements for their students, working in partnership with the practice learning partner in accordance with NMC standards in the event of local lockdown. 

It is the responsibility of the education provider to undertake robust risk assessments to protect students on placement. 

If you have any concerns, in the first instance you should raise them with your practice supervisor or assessor, or your university tutor. If you are still concerned and haven’t been able to resolve the issue please contact RCN Direct on 0345 772 6100 for advice. 

It is the responsibility of the educational provider to ensure that students complete the required number of practice hours. The NMC provides more information around clinical simulation which can be used towards students’ practice hours. Read more on the NMC website.   

If you have any concerns, in the first instance you should raise them with your practice supervisor or assessor, or your university tutor. If you are still concerned and haven’t been able to resolve the issue please contact RCN Direct on 0345 772 6100 for advice.

What support will I get in practice? 

Your educational provider is responsible for offering you a suitable placement which will take into account your knowledge and experience around the environment you are asked to work in. Once on placement you must discuss your assessment of competence and confidence with your practice supervisor and assessor. 

Students should work to the NMC code of conduct, preserving safety at all times. Students will remain accountable for the care that they provide. It is essential that students only undertake care that they feel they are competent and confident to carry out. Each educational provider should also provide their own raising and escalating concerns guidance to students. 

If you have any concerns, in the first instance you should raise them with your practice supervisor or assessor, or your university tutor. If you are still concerned and haven’t been able to resolve the issue please contact RCN Direct on 0345 772 6100 for advice. 

Safety on whilst on placement 

Any educational practice must take place in line with the country-specific guidance at that exact time. Full risk assessments should be undertaken in advance and mitigations made in order to ensure that the government guidance is addressed. It is your responsibility to ensure that you understand and are able to comply with the risk assessment and mitigation prior to commencing any activity.  

Mitigation may include the use of personal protective equipment (PPE). For more information please read our advice guide on PPE. Further information can also be found in the country-specific guidance on PPE.

Mitigation may also include testing for COVID-19 infection. This should be delivered in accordance with local infection prevention and control policies. 

If you have any concerns, in the first instance you should raise them with your practice supervisor or assessor, or your university tutor. If you are still concerned and haven’t been able to resolve the issue please contact RCN Direct on 0345 772 6100 for advice. 

 

Reasonable adjustments are an entitlement under law and should not be affected by changes to your education in response to COVID-19. Ensure that your needs are known by your university and take a proactive approach in sharing your inclusion plan with your Placement Education Facilitator or other placement contact as early as you’re able to.

If you are having issues in establishing or sustaining the adjustments you need, in the first instance consult your university's disability support team and RCN members can call RCN Direct on 0345 7726100 for further advice.  

Organisations must have effective procedures in place to allow nursing staff - including students - and their representatives to raise any concerns in relation to equipment, policies and processes for managing COVID-19 at the earliest opportunity.


Students should feel able to raise concerns without detriment and should receive timely feedback on their concerns. If your concerns remain unresolved, refer to:

and speak to your supervisor/tutor as soon as possible.

If you have followed these steps and the issue is still not resolved, please call RCN Direct on 0345 772 6100. 

Nursing students need to feel protected when going onto clinical placements during COVID-19. Therefore, it is important that all nursing students have access to life assurance (often called death in service) benefits should they die as a result of exposure to COVID-19 whilst on clinical placement.

We expect governments in every UK country to provide all nursing students with an entitlement to life assurance payments that pay out to the students’ estate in the event of a students’ death from Covid-19 exposure on placement. All forms of placement in any setting – not just those in the NHS – should be included.

It is not acceptable for governments or ministers to say that this will be decided on a discretionary case by case basis. Governments must provide clear step by step guidance for students and family members on eligibility for the life assurance payment, what the process is to apply, and what the applicants can expect throughout the process. This guidance should be easy to understand and developed in a transparent manner with stakeholders consulted on any changes in guidance or policy. Finally, we expect employers, universities and, in Scotland, further education colleges, to work closely with the affected students’ families following any student death. 

if you have been overpaid, please see our Overpayment of wages guide. It includes a step by step process that you can follow, as well as example letters and templates.

For tips and helpful information on successful distance learning and self-isolation for international students in the UK, see:

Tips for Successful Distance Learning During COVID-19
Coronavirus Information for UK International Students

The Education Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) have produced guidance with regards to apprenticeships during the COVID-19 pandemic. See: Department for Education, Coronavirus (COVID-19): apprenticeship programme response.

The ESFA guidance says that:

  • Apprentices should receive the usual funding even if they cannot currently continue in learning or fall out of work as a result of COVID-19.  
  • Apprentices to be able to continue and complete their apprenticeship, despite any break they need to take as a result of COVID-19. 

Further information and guidance documents can be found at:

HASO
Skills for Health
Unionlearn - Apprenticeships & COVID-19
The Institute for Apprenticeships

You can contact the Department for Education Coronavirus Helpline for education related queries on 0800 046 8687 (open 8am to 6pm, Monday to Friday) or by emailing DfE.coronavirushelpline@education.gov.uk.

 

If you are earning and paying tax, then you may be eligible to claim tax relief on:

  • laundering your uniform
  • shoes and socks/tights
  • RCN membership fees
  • Nursing Standard subscriptions

Once you are registered with the NMC, you could claim tax relief on your NMC fees too.

See the RCN’s page on Tax relief for more details and how to claim.

How the extended paid placement impacts your Tax Credits

If you have undertaken an extended placement, you may have already seen an impact on your Tax Credits.

Tax Credits are an annual benefit and you should have alerted the HMRC that you have been in paid employment. If you have not done so yet, you will need to do this as soon as possible to avoid any overpayment of benefits in the 2020/2021 tax year. 

When your paid placement ends, you will again need to alert HMRC to your new situation. If your paid hours have reduced to below the Working Tax Credit threshold, then this element of your entitlement will no longer be paid and your tax credits will be adjusted accordingly.

How will the extended paid placement impact on my Universal Credits?

If you are currently claiming Universal Credit, then taking on a paid placement will mean your new income will have been used to calculate your new Universal Credit entitlement. HMRC will have alerted Universal Credit to your new pay situation and recalculations will have been done automatically. Depending on your employment situation after the paid placement ends, you may no longer be entitled to the Universal Credit Work Allowance and you may again be subjected to the benefits cap.

To see more about how Universal Credit is worked out, see Calculating Universal Credit on the Entitled To website.

Can I claim childcare costs through Tax Credits or Universal Credit?

If you have childcare costs and were working sufficient hours, you can also make a claim for the childcare element of Working Tax Credit or Universal Credit, but only if you were not claiming childcare costs via Student finance; you cannot claim both.

What if I am not currently claiming any benefits?

Most new applications for benefits must now be made through the Universal Credit system.

If you are not currently getting benefits, it is unlikely that you would have qualified if you started claiming when you started work, as your income will include both your current student funding and your salary. However, there are some exceptions to this, especially if you have children and would qualify for the Work allowance.

If you're unsure about whether or not you qualified, please seek advice by emailing the RCN Welfare Service. Please note there are strict backdating rules for benefits applications, so please do not delay in contacting the service.

Help and support

As the situation with students during the COVID-19 paid placement period was a new and complex one for the benefits agency, there have been instances where mistakes and miscalculations have been made. If you feel that the way your benefits entitlements have been treated during or after placement have been incorrect, please get in touch with the RCN Welfare Service and we will be happy to look at the calculations and assist with lodging an appeal if there appear to be errors. 

COVID-19 testing

Looking for information about getting tested? Please see the UK government guidance.

Student Money Guide

Providing helpful advice on funding, bursaries, benefits and housing as well as tips on saving money and budgeting.

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Page last updated - 18/11/2020