COVID-19 advice for students and trainee nursing associates

NMC Council have approved recommendations and withdrawn the emergency education standards that enabled final year students to undertake extended clinical placements. The removal of the standard should not affect any students who have been on an extended placement.  

Emergency standards which allowed first year students in nursing and midwifery to undertake their first year in theoretical learning, and the standard allowing the same person to act as both supervisor and assessor,  remain in place until 30 September 2021. Normal standards for student supervision and assessment will then apply.

The NMC recovery standards were also reviewed:

  •  the use of blended learning will remain in place until the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care declares the pandemic emergency is over
  • 300 hours of alternative simulated practice to count towards practice hours will remain in place and reviewed in six months  

The requirement for students to complete their learning outcomes within 12 weeks of moving to the next part of their programme has been removed from the standards for pre-registration nursing and midwifery education.

We'll keep you informed of any further updates to these standards when we can.

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

The NMC recovery standard confirming that clinical simulation can be used to contribute towards a student's practice hours will continue for a further six months when it will be reviewed. This allows for student nurses to practise and learn in simulated environments for up to 300 hours. This may be particularly helpful to students who have not been able to secure a placement during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

It is the responsibility of the education institution to ensure the safety of students, in line with government guidance.

Any educational practice must take place in line with the government guidance at that exact time. Full risk assessments should be undertaken and mitigations made in order to ensure that the guidance is addressed. The provider must ensure that all staff and students understand the risk assessment and mitigation prior to commencing any activity. 

If social distancing isn’t possible PPE will be necessary, with issues around the correct and appropriate use of PPE included in the risk assessment.  Read our advice guide on PPE.

If you are concerned for your safety, speak in the first instance to your personal tutor and education institution. If you still have concerns, read our guidance on raising concerns below and contact us if you need further advice and support.  

It is important to note that both AEIs and placement providers should carefully risk assess students to ensure that those at higher risk are properly protected. 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.

The NHS & Social Care Coronavirus Life Assurance Scheme provides additional financial protection for frontline staff who are employed to deliver care for people and work in environments that carry an increased risk of contracting Coronavirus. The scheme pays a £60,000 tax-free lump sum. This includes healthcare students.  

Clinical placements are governed by formal agreements between universities and the host organisation. Eligibility for this payment is work-related and requires the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care to be satisfied that coronavirus was contracted in the course of performing duties.

Students on paid placements may also join the NHS Pension Scheme, which provides additional death in service benefits.

For more information please see NHS & Social Care Coronavirus Life Assurance Scheme and as both England and Wales students are eligible please see:

  • In Scotland, the Scottish Government provide cover to students on placements in all health and social care settings. This scheme provides a single lump sum payment of £60,000 to the next of kin of any student of an HEI in the event of a COVID-19 related. See Information for student nurses in Scotland.

Finally, we expect employers, universities and, in Scotland, further education colleges, to work closely with the affected students’ families following any student death.

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

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 us

It is the responsibility of the educational provider to ensure that students complete the required number of practice hours. The NMC recovery standard which allows 330 hours of alternative simulated practice to count towards practice hours remains in place. Read more on the NMC website.

If you have completed an extended paid clinical placement, the hours you worked should contribute to your practice hours.
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 us.

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 us

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 us

If you have any payment concerns following a paid placement, you should first raise the matter with your manager who may refer you directly to your payroll department. You should receive any backdated pay as soon as possible but you should keep your own records (for example, how many hours you worked and the dates) in case you need to take the matter further. Please see our underpayment of wages guidance for more information, model letters and the steps you should take. 

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.

If you are unable to resolve the matter please contact us for further 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. 

Please email the welfare.service@rcn.org.uk and an adviser will call you back to discuss your personal situation.

Nursing students in their first year

Decisions based on local needs will be made about you being able to continue with your studies, with supernumerary status, when on clinical placement.

Nursing students in their final year

It remains the responsibility of the AEI to ensure you have met all of your learning outcomes and requirements necessary to complete your programme and join the NMC register.

All other undergraduate students (including post-graduate diploma/masters students)

You will continue with your studies as planned and continue to have supernumerary status when on clinical placement.

It remains the responsibility of the AEI to ensure you have met all of your learning outcomes and necessary requirements to complete your programme and join the NMC register.

See Health Education England (HEE) for more information.

Scotland

In Scotland, the Scottish Government has committed to students retaining their supernumerary status and their position in the clinical area as learners, stating that priority will be given to ensuring the timely graduation of final year students. The Scottish Government has confirmed the option of part time paid employment is available to healthcare students through NHS staff banks – this is separate from programmes of study or placement. For more information please see Information for student nurses in Scotland.

Wales

In Wales, at the current time there are no changes to the way your theoretical and practice learning is organised other than the same person fulfilling the role of practice supervisor and assessor. Your practice learning should continue as planned. Our priority is the timely registration of final year students, and we want you to retain your supernumerary status on placement. We will keep this position under continuous review. Therefore student nurses in Wales will not be invited to join the temporary register.

Northern Ireland

In Northern Ireland final year students will not currently be offered the option of an extended paid clinical placement.

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 contact us

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, RCN members can also contact us.  

To help staff support you during your clinical placement the emergency standards allow the same person to fulfil the role of practice supervisor and practice assessor. This NMC recovery standard will remain in place until 30 September 2021.

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.

Page last updated - 09/06/2021