Your views

Readers’ panel: should nursing students go into practice early to help tackle COVID-19?

Third-year nursing students may receive registration to help with the pandemic

Illustration showing a nursing student on a hospital ward looking anxious

Under new emergency legislation set out by the government to help combat pressure from COVID-19 cases, the Nursing and Midwifery Council will be given the legal powers to emergency register third-year nursing students who are near the end of their training. Nursing Standard readers have their say.

Grant Byrne is a fourth-year nursing student in Edinburgh

In a crisis, difficult decisions have to be made. Like other fellow nursing students, I am apprehensive about these plans but stand ready to do my part. Before targeting students, however, the Nursing and Midwifery Council should exhaust the supply of qualified but unregistered staff, such as those in research and academia. There are many unanswered questions with this proposal, but whatever happens in the coming months I have little doubt that nursing students will continue to go above and beyond. Support your students and they will support you. Together, we will get through this.

Rachel Kent is a mental health nurse in London

Nursing students are talented and valued members of our teams, but they are still students. They work as part of the team, probably doing far more than they should be doing already. I do not see how qualifying early will make a difference, save to place them in positions of responsibility sooner without the safety net. And what of their preceptorships? What I find deeply concerning is why this crisis has prompted the proposal to accelerate nursing student qualification when we have been so low in numbers for many years and always had to make do.

Stacie May is a second-year nursing student in Plymouth

As a ticket into potential early registration and front-line work, this proposal could have advantages for nursing students who are almost ready to qualify. But I can’t help but worry; not only is it unclear what remuneration students would receive, it is a potential safety risk to students, nurses and patients. Third-year nursing students are highly competent, but entering clinical practice early could prevent further learning, with students placed in positions of accountability and responsibility in areas they may not be familiar with, possibly affecting their registration. I would be cautious about this move.

Liz Charalambous is a staff nurse in Nottingham

We are navigating extraordinary times where difficult and possibly unpopular decisions must be made. However, while we need a highly skilled nursing workforce, I fear for the welfare and safety of students who may not be prepared to enter accountable practice. The government has consistently neglected to listen to the nursing profession and is now realising the ramifications of this. This proposal has implications around accountability, safety, litigation and efficacy, all of which need careful consideration. But if coronavirus infections in the UK follow the trends seen from the epidemiological data coming from other countries, ultimately there may not be much choice.

Readers’ panel members give their views in a personal capacity only

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