COVID-19: nursing students raise concerns as many clinical placements continue

Students seek clarity as growing number of universities cancel face-to-face teaching

Picture shows a young woman working on a laptop. Nursing students are seeking clarity about placements as a growing number of universities cancel face-to-face teaching amid COVID-19.
Picture: iStock

Nursing students are seeking clarity on whether clinical placements should continue, as many universities suspend face-to-face teaching amid the COVID-19 outbreak.

Growing numbers of UK universities have suspended face-to-face lectures, with teaching material being provided online.

While clinical placements appear to be going ahead on many nursing courses, a number of universities have told Nursing Standard they have cancelled placements.

Online petition gathers supports on social media

Meanwhile, students have taken to social media to express concern about placements, and an online petition calling for students to be allowed to withdraw from placements has received 1,250 signatures.

The Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) wrote to approved education institutions and practice learning partners on 11 March stating it would not expect students to be discouraged from starting or completing placements as a result of COVID-19.

But the letter, seen by Nursing Standard, also says that if a student has come into contact with someone with COVID-19, institutions would be expected to follow locally agreed guidelines, working with the relevant practice partner and following public health information.

Placements suspended ‘in the interests of minimising risk’

The University of East Anglia confirmed it has temporarily suspended all student practice placements in health and social care settings.

A university spokesperson said: ‘This decision has been undertaken in what are extraordinary circumstances, and in the interests of minimising risk. We are trying to keep patients, students and staff safe and avoid adding to the stress under which the NHS is currently operating.’

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The University of Chester, which provides quality assurance for nursing programmes on the Isle of Man, said it had been told that the Isle of Man government had decided to withdraw students from placement in order to redirect resources. 

The University of Central Lancashire said it had removed nursing students from placements if they or their family members were in at-risk categories.

But a spokesperson for the university said that, in line with many UK medical schools, all medical students had also been taken out of placements to free up clinical teaching staff for service delivery.

‘Follow advice, but think of yourself and your family’

RCN students committee chair Jessica Sainsbury advised nursing students to follow advice from their individual universities and trusts, but also to think of themselves and their families if they were concerned about risk.

‘If you need to step off the course to look after children or immune-compromised people, or to self-isolate for 14 days, please do not think twice about it.

‘I know that is not the message that is coming out from others, but in those cases we would be encouraging students to liaise with their programme leads to ensure their concerns are heard.’

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