RCN outlines expected support for final year nursing students as emergency education standards brought back

14 Jan 2021

Final year nursing students may once more be invited to support the response to the COVID-19 pandemic through undertaking paid placements.

Nurse tying PPE cap The RCN has outlined how it expects nursing students to be supported as emergency education standards are reinstated by the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC). The standards have been reintroduced upon request of the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care in light of the current strain being placed on services due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

While the standards are UK wide, only England has agreed to activate the option for offering final year student paid placements currently. It will also be done on a local basis, with individual higher education institutions and placement provider organisations able to utilise the standards to implement paid placements should they choose to.

As before, taking on a paid clinical placement is optional, not mandatory; each individual student can decide whether it is the right option for them.
The NMC has also introduced two additional emergency standards relating to first year nursing and midwifery students and supervision and assessment in practice.
The RCN is clear that employers and educators must take full responsibility for the supervision, support and wellbeing of any final year students whether they choose to opt-in or not. Students must not be disadvantaged, either financially or in terms of their education, irrespective of their individual decision.
To support our student members, we have set out eight guiding principles and a series of FAQs and the RCN Students Committee continues to represent the student voice in meetings and on social media.

Mike Adams, RCN Director for England, said: “Any students being asked to provide support must be given the same rights and protection as all other frontline workers. This includes access to vaccinations and the right level of PPE.

“The local decision to ask final year students to volunteer should only be done where all other options for increasing the workforce have been exhausted – and no student should feel pressured to do this. 

“It is vital that any disruption to students’ education and ultimately date of registration is kept to an absolute minimum.

“If implemented, higher education institutions and practice placement providers should implement robust risk assessments, which consider the safety of the student and clinical demands of the proposed placement area.”

See the NMC website for more information about the emergency education standards and how they apply to nursing students at each stage of their course.

Page last updated - 20/01/2021