Question and answers for pre-registration nursing students in Scotland

The questions and answers below provide information for nursing students in Scotland. With feedback on nursing student members’ experiences of studying during the pandemic, RCN Scotland has raised key issues with the Scottish Government and responses are included in these FAQs. We will continue to update our student members as further information becomes available.

Your views and experiences are a powerful tool in helping us to influence on your behalf to support nursing students. Please take a few minutes to share your experience of studying including clinical placements during the pandemic with the RCN Scotland easy to use SenseMaker tool to share your storyThe process is quick and easy to use. Please be assured that your input is totally anonymous.

In January 2021, in response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) announced the re-introduction of the emergency education standards to allow universities to implement paid placements for final-year nursing students where this was required locally. While these standards were UK wide, only England agreed to activate the option for offering final year student paid placements. At that time Scotland’s Chief Nursing Officer wrote an open letter to all nursing and midwifery students in Scotland making clear that full time-time student deployment was not considered appropriate in Scotland. The Scottish Government confirmed that the option of part time paid employment is available to healthcare students through NHS staff banks and is separate from programmes of study or placement. The NMC updated their position In May 2021 and the emergency standard to enable final year students to undertake paid clinical placements was removed. For more information see our COVID-19 advice for students.

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 RCN remain clear that during the COVID-19 pandemic no student must be disadvantaged financially or suffer delays to their continuing education. All students must be adequately supported to complete academic studies and meet the NMC requirements relating to clinical practice hours taking cognisance of their individual circumstances.

Keep in touch via our RCN Scotland Student Facebook group for student members – search 'RCN Scotland Students' on Facebook and request to join.

You can also find more more information and about studying and working during the pandemic on our separate COVID-19 advice for students and our COVID-19 advice pages.

We are working hard in these challenging times to keep you updated and if you can't find what you are looking for please see our Get help page or contact us and we will get back to you as soon as we can.

  • The Scottish Government has committed to students retaining their supernumerary status and their position in the clinical area as learners.
  • The Council of Deans of Health UK position on student placements has confirmed their priority to ensure students progress through their courses and qualify on time as competent professionals.
  • RCN Scotland has raised concerns from students about ensuring supernumerary status at current and future placements.  Through sharing feedback from student members with Scottish Government, RCN Scotland was invited to join the Rapid Action Placement Oversight Group (RAPOG)  which is focusing on nursing, midwifery and allied health professions student experience and reports into a Scottish Government strategic group set up to oversee placements for all healthcare students.  RAPOG involves universities and colleges engaging with NHS Boards and stakeholders. Actions to support students are being placed with universities and colleges, Boards, and Government.
  • Based on feedback from RCN Scotland student members on supernumerary status, a RAPOG short life working group has developed supernumerary scenarios. Based on student experiences these examples are available to provide practitioners supporting, supervising, and assessing students with context and examples of supernumerary status - available here in Appendix 2 of the Rapid Action Placement Oversight Group FAQS
  • If you have concerns regarding your placement experience or supernumerary status, you should initially raise your concern with your practice supervisor/practice assessor, or the clinical manager of the practice learning environment. If for any reason you are reluctant to raise a concern with clinical staff you should follow your university or college guidance on raising concerns, seek support from the RCN and raise your concern with the academic lecturer designated to your practice learning experience.
  • If you have a clinical concern please see the Raising concerns guidance for RCN members which answers the questions you might have about raising a concern, including the support you will receive.  This resource, aimed at NHS and independent sector nursing staff and student nurses, will support you to raise concerns. It includes a decision-making flowchart to help staff and students decide whether to raise a concern and when to escalate a concern.
  • At any stage, whether you are following your university or collage guidance, or the steps outlined here, you can contact the RCN for support and advice. Call the RCN on 0345 772 6100.

  • Our conversations with Scottish Government confirmed the national commitment that vaccinations are for all front line staff including nursing students and bank nursing staff. This is applicable across all health and care settings. Nursing students are to receive the same access to vaccinations as any other health and social care staff in your placement locations.
  • Health care staff are second tier in the vaccination programme so alongside frontline health and care workers, nursing students on placements have access to the vaccinations. Scottish Government guidance for NHS Boards on vaccination for students on placements is available here.
  • Vaccinations are to be offered to all nursing students however the timing of your vaccine may vary depending on local rollout.
  • If you are not currently on placement, do speak to your university about the plans for vaccination and your own programme of study and future placements.
  • For further information on vaccinations see COVID-19 and vaccination FAQs

  • Your education and career are important, and it is vital you are supported in your learning.  The RCN is committed to ensuring that students must be fully supported and we have presented student views to Scottish Government and influenced the guidance on changes required to the course requirements due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  Both the Scottish Government and NMC have been clear that current programmes had to be adapted.
  • The Scottish Government guidance in 2020 clearly stated for nursing and midwifery students not in first year, and not in the final six months of their pre-registration programme at the time of paid placements/theory route choices, should be supported to meet the academic course requirements.
  • The NMC, Council of Deans of Health and universities are to work together to assess how students can be supported to achieve course requirements across the remaining period of their studies, and within original degree timeframes. Where ongoing programme structure changes are needed NHS Education for Scotland is to monitor the impact at universities and for students.
  • As programmes are different across universities, arrangements will differ - however your university should support you and answer your questions on adaptions to course requirements within the timeframe of your degree.

  • The Scottish Government has confirmed that NHS Boards can recruit nursing and midwifery students as bank workers on part time fixed term contracts through staff banks.
  • This option of part time paid employment for all healthcare students is separate from programmes of study or placement experience.
  • RCN Scotland secured that the Scottish Terms and Conditions Committee (STAC) would address contractual issues regarding this option of part time paid employment.  This action informed a further Scottish Government letter to healthcare students providing additional details including Frequently Asked Questions.
  • Scottish Government confirmed that opportunities will vary depending on local requirements.
  • NHS Boards can offer nursing and midwifery students who are currently on the staff bank or who join the bank as a result of this Scottish Government announcement, part time fixed term contracts through staff banks at a maximum of 15 hours per week.   There is to be flexibility to enable students to work when is appropriate for your own circumstances, including working fewer hours or not at all some weeks.
  • Roles will have clear job descriptions and you will be paid at the Agenda for Change band for the specific role.
  • Further details are available here in the Scottish Government FAQs on this option of part time employment via staff banks.

  • RCN Scotland asked that actions are taken to ensure that nursing students are enabled to achieve placement hours and graduate within appropriate timescales. Progression with programmes in line with original scheduling as much as possible has been confirmed as a top priority for Scottish Government.
  • Arrangements have been put in place to extend financial support to eligible final year students who were unable to opt into revised programme delivery, and therefore still have placement time to complete as part of their education requirements.
  • The detail was developed and agreed in 2020 by a working group including HEIs, placement providers and representative bodies, with the RCN key in influencing this position.  These arrangements have been refreshed for final year students in 2021.
  • Eligible students will continue to receive the bursary and any allowances which they are currently receiving until they are able to complete their programmes with a maximum extension of up until 31 December 2021.
  • Your university should submit extension requests for all students who require an extension to their original end date – by submitting the standard individual Change of Circumstances forms to the Student Awards Agency Scotland (SAAS).
  • Your university should discuss individually with you any barriers to going out on placement as soon as possible and an occupational health assessment should be sought if there are concerns with the suitability of available placements.
  • The arrangements also provide for exceptional circumstances that may require a further extension beyond 31 December 2021.   You should discuss this with your university who will liaise with the Chief Nursing Officer (CNO) team at Scottish Government.   Your university will submit SAAS Change of Circumstances forms for exceptional circumstances to the CNO Directorate for approval before being submitted to SAAS.

  • Over the summer in 2020 the RCN was successful in influencing equitable pay bands for college students who were on placement, and during the autumn the RCN was successful in influencing the extension of the temporary COVID-19 related death in service scheme.  We continue to influence on issues for further education college students.
  • We are aware that some FE college students were being prevented from taking up placements due to concerns regarding the provision of death in service benefits. RCN Scotland lobbied the Scottish Government to extend the temporary COVID-19 related death in service scheme provision and from November 2020 this applies to all students undertaking an HNC in Care and Administrative Practice and an HNC in Healthcare Practice who undertake placements in health and social care settings.
  • Scottish Government expect universities to be flexible when considering the number of practice hours students have achieved whilst at college, given the hours obtained may be less than those usually completed out-with these circumstances under COVID-19.Year 1 university students who have now started Year 2 on the pre-registration programme may also be short on hours, and Year 1 university students and NHS supported HNC students who have now articulated into year 2 are to be supported to achieve the required number of practice hours across the remainder of their course.

  • The Scottish Government confirmed that it will provide a temporary COVID-19 related death in service scheme to students on supernumerary placement. Pre-registration nursing students have access to a death in service benefit in the same way and on the same terms as registered staff. Their families will receive a lump sum of £60,000 if they die as a result of contracting COVID-19 at work, whether that is in an NHS setting or in a care home.
  • RCN Scotland lobbied Scottish Government for this provision to be extended to students who are studying via a further education route.  Scottish Government has confirmed in November 2020 that the temporary COVID-19 related death in service scheme provision applies to all students undertaking an HNC in Care and Administrative Practice and an HNC in Healthcare Practice who undertake placements in health and social care settings.  This is the same cover in place for students from higher education.  

Student Awards Agency Scotland (SAAS):


Rapid Action Placement Oversight Group:


RCN resources:


RCN Scotland Facebook group for student nurse members in Scotland - search 'RCN Scotland Students' on Facebook and request to join.

Page last updated - 04/06/2021