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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.

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 have shared a national offer via an open letter to healthcare students – including nursing and midwifery students – to apply to register with their local NHS Board Bank and availability of three or six-month part-time paid employment with NHS Boards. This is separate from programmes of study or placement. An open letter to students was distributed via universities and colleges in October 2021.

The RCN remains 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 information 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.

  • Scottish Government confirmed the national commitment that vaccinations are for all front line staff including nursing students and bank nursing staff with guidance for NHS Boards on vaccination for students on placements is available here.
  • For further information on vaccinations compiled by RCN advisers in public health, infection control, and employment relations 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.
  • Where ongoing programme structure changes have been 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 students have the opportunity to apply to register with your local NHS Board Bank, and that NHS Boards can recruit nursing and midwifery students on less than full time fixed-term contracts (LTFTFTC) of three or six months with your nearest health board.

  • This option of part time paid employment for all healthcare students is separate from programmes of study or placement experience.

  • Scottish Government confirmed that opportunities will vary depending on local requirements. Students are to be deployed in accordance with board needs, but in a regular setting.

  • NHS boards can offer nursing and midwifery students who are currently on the staff bank part-time fixed term contracts 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.

  • Contracts will be offered at Agenda for Change Bands 2, 3 and 4 – with employment to a specified role made in accordance with your skills and abilities, including prior relevant work experience and/or prior level of study.

  • Roles will have clear job descriptions and you will be paid at the Agenda for Change band for the specific role.

  • Boards are to provide a contact point in their HR Department to your university or college who will be responsible for onboarding students.


  • 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 were put in place to extend financial support to eligible students in their final year who were unable to opt into revised programme delivery, and therefore still had 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 were refreshed for final year students in 2021.
  • 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. 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.

  • During these challenging times, for tips and resources on self-care and looking after your mental health during the COVID-19 outbreak see COVID-19 and your mental wellbeing for more details.
  • To minimise the risk of onward transmission of COVID-19 compliance with standard infection control and transmission-based measures is vital. This includes:
    • Personal protective equipment (PPE): See RCN guidance and Health Protection Scotland guidance.
    • See the RCN COVID-19 workplace risk assessment toolkit for support to consider and manage risks associated with the transmission of respiratory infections, specifically COVID-19.  This toolkit for nursing staff treating patients with confirmed or suspected COVID-19 can be used in conjunction with local policies and guidance, and aid local decision making on the level of personal protective equipment (PPE) required to protect you whilst on placement.

  • 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 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 - 25/03/2022