Information for student nurses in Scotland 

In response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) has announced emergency education standards to allow universities to implement paid placements for final-year nursing students where this is required locally. While the standards are UK wide, only England has agreed to activate the option for offering final-year student paid placements currently and this is only being implemented in certain locations depending on local circumstances and decisions. 

Scotland’s Chief Nursing Officer has written an open letter to all nursing and midwifery students in Scotland making clear that full-time student deployment is not considered appropriate in Scotland at this point in time.

The Scottish Government has committed to students retaining their supernumerary status and their position in the clinical area as learners.  Priority will be given to ensuring the timely graduation of final-year students.

The Scottish Government has also confirmed in a letter to NHS Boards, that the option of part-time paid employment for all healthcare students separate from programmes of study or placement experience is to be made available and that NHS Boards will be able to recruit nursing and midwifery students as bank workers on part-time fixed term contracts through staff banks.

This has not been developed in partnership with the trade unions, which would have given the opportunity to work through the detail of this offer, and RCN Scotland has a number of concerns about the option, including: hours offered, equity of Agenda for Change bands and the process for determining banding. We have raised these concerns with Scottish Government and secured that this will be resolved via the Scottish Terms and Conditions Committee (STAC). Communication is to be issued to students via universities and colleges, and this is to take place following the work at STAC. We will continue to update our student members as further guidance becomes available.  

We remain clear that during the COVID-19 pandemic no student must be disadvantaged financially or suffer delays to their continuing education.

The following questions and answers provide information for nursing students in Scotland. You can also find more more information and about studying and working during the pandemic 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.

Please take a few minutes to share your experience of studying during the pandemic with the RCN Scotland easy to use SenseMaker tool. Share your story and help inform our work to support students.

  • If you have questions about your health or circumstances or for example have further medical advice about the management of your condition, – your university should discuss this with you and assist you by working with their practice learning partners to place you appropriately.
  • Students have previously advised of instances where their university and practice learning partners are struggling to find a shielded or low risk placement for them.  Flexibility should be offered, and every effort made to ensure that no student is disadvantaged.  Universities and  practice learning partners must therefore continue to work together to place students appropriately.

  • 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 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 confirmed that it will provide a temporary COVID-19 related death in service scheme to students on 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. The 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.

  • Over the summer months 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. The RCN 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.

Student Awards Agency Scotland (SAAS):

RCN resources:

COVID-19 advice for students

COVID-19 (coronavirus)

COVID-19 (coronavirus) FAQs

Employment and pay

Healthy Workplace, Healthy You

Raising concerns

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


Page last updated - 21/01/2021