Delayed graduation: why nursing students face months of clinical placement catch-up

COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc on practice learning schedules
Two women dressed in mortar board and gowns for their graduation – as 2,000 nursing students face long delay to graduate as a result of the pandemic

COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc on nursing students’ practice learning schedules

Many nursing students have been unable to complete their practice hours
because of service changes in response to the pandemic  Picture: Tim George

Almost 2,000 final-year nursing students may face a delay of up to three months before they can graduate, due to the disruption of the pandemic.

Health Education England’s (HEE) chief nurse, Mark Radford estimated 1,940 final-year students may need to extend their studies by an average of seven weeks – up to a maximum of 12, because of delays in completing the clinical hours they need to graduate.

Mr Radford said the issue is thought to affect 10% of England’s final-year nursing students.

‘We are working with higher education institutions, NHS and other placement providers to help students complete the hours required in order to qualify as quickly as is possible,’ he said.

MPs are told of the challenge for nursing students 

Final-year nursing students in England were offered paid placements from March to the end of July as part of the government’s response to the pandemic.

But stakeholders including Unison, NHS Employers and the Council of Deans of Health, raised concerns about the disruption to student placements with a committee of MPs, which published a report on nursing workforce planning last week.

Warning from NHS Employers over further disruption

NHS Employers warned further disruption looms for those nursing students trying to catch up.

'We cannot underestimate (sic) the challenge of catch up for people already on programme; expanding numbers and trying to do this whilst managing COVID-19; bringing other services back on stream; the potential for a second surge, and winter pressures,' the organisation told the committee.

Council of Deans of Health executive director, Katerina Kolyva, said: ‘Universities have worked very hard over the summer with placement providers to ensure final-year students are able to qualify as soon as possible. There will be some students who still have placement hours to complete in this academic year because of the disruption’.

Nursing students are required to complete 2,300 hours on clinical placement before graduating.

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