Choice must be paramount for students during COVID-19

 Eileen McKenna 8 Apr 2020

Eileen McKenna highlights the importance of choice for nursing students as undergraduate programmes are changed to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Graphic of RCN student with fob watch and clipboard
This has been a really challenging time for all our members including our student members as they have waited to find out more about how they will be impacted by the announcement that undergraduate nursing programmes are changing as part of efforts to expand the nursing workforce during the COVID-19 pandemic.

We know that nursing students have had many questions about what these changes will mean in practice. In particular, what options are open to them during the current crisis and what this will ultimately mean for their education, completing their degree and gaining their NMC registration.

Throughout this time, as plans have been firmed up and details have been announced, the RCN has been clear that individual nursing students must be able to choose whether or not to work clinically on placement in the current situation. They must not feel any pressure to do so.

We know that many nursing students want to work clinically during this pandemic – many have started working this week and I know they are committed to making the most of the learning opportunity this presents and will make a valuable contribution to care at this unprecedented time. But there are students with all sorts of personal circumstances that may mean an individual is unable to work on the frontline at this time, including their own underlying medical conditions, concerns for vulnerable members of their family or caring responsibilities. 

The Scottish Government has published guidance explaining the approach being taken in Scotland for nursing students. This sets out the different approaches for year 1 students, year 2 & 3 students not in the final six months of their programme and year 3 students in their final 6 month of their programme. 

The RCN, along with our RCN UK Student Committee members for Scotland, has worked hard to ensure that the voice of students has been heard by the Scottish Government while they developed the guidance. We have  published a set of FAQs for students in Scotland and are updating these regularly as new information becomes available.

I’d like to take this opportunity to thank all nursing students for their contribution and professionalism over recent weeks. I’ve seen some posts on social media where individual students have shared that they aren’t opting into clinical placements and feel like they are failing or letting others down. I’d like all students to know that, whatever choice you make, we couldn’t be prouder of our student members. These are complex decisions and individuals must be supported to make the best choice for themselves and their families without feeling pressurised by others. We all have an important role to play during these challenging times and there are many ways that all of us can contribute to efforts to beat this pandemic – not only via clinical placements.

Eileen McKenna

Associate Director, RCN Scotland

Eileen McKenna is Associate Director (Professional Practice), RCN Scotland.

Page last updated - 08/04/2020