COVID-19 advice for students and trainee nursing associates

Please note updated guidance below on the Omicron variant and part time working and volunteering in the FAQs.

Brexit has offered the NMC the opportunity to review the Education Standards as European legislation no longer applies. Until this review is complete the NMC Council has agreed that the COVID-19 recovery standards will remain in place. 

A discretionary standard RN6 has been introduced to allow, up to 600 hours of simulation to count towards practice hours.

This will remain in place until the standards development work is complete. 

Vaccination as a condition of deployment

If you have not received the COVID-19 vaccine and are subject to a formal process (for example: redeployment or dismissal), please see our guidance on COVID-19 vaccine refusal

The Education Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) have produced guidance with regards to apprenticeships during the COVID-19 pandemic. See: Department for Education, Coronavirus (COVID-19): apprenticeship programme response.

The ESFA guidance says that:

  • Apprentices should receive the usual funding even if they cannot currently continue in learning or fall out of work as a result of COVID-19.  
  • Apprentices to be able to continue and complete their apprenticeship, despite any break they need to take as a result of COVID-19. 

Further information and guidance documents can be found at:

HASO
Skills for Health
Unionlearn - Apprenticeships & COVID-19
The Institute for Apprenticeships

You can contact the Department for Education Coronavirus Helpline for education related queries on 0800 046 8687 (open 8am to 6pm, Monday to Friday) or by emailing DfE.coronavirushelpline@education.gov.uk

Until the post Brexit review of the NMC Education Standards is complete, the NMC has confirmed that clinical simulation can be used to contribute towards a student's practice hours. This allows nursing students to practice and learn through simulated practice learning where conventional clinical practice isn’t available or possible.  A discretionary standard RN6 has been introduced to allow, up to 600 hours of simulation to count towards practice hours. This will remain in place until the standards development work is complete. For more information, please see continued use of recovery standards.

It is the responsibility of the education institution to ensure the safety of students, in line with government guidance.

Any educational practice must take place in line with the government guidance at that exact time. Full risk assessments should be undertaken and mitigations made in order to ensure that the guidance is addressed. The provider must ensure that all staff and students understand the risk assessment and mitigation prior to commencing any activity. 

If social distancing isn’t possible PPE will be necessary, with issues around the correct and appropriate use of PPE included in the risk assessment.  Read our advice guide on PPE.

If you are concerned for your safety, speak in the first instance to your personal tutor and education institution. If you still have concerns, read our guidance on raising concerns below and contact us if you need further advice and support.  

It is important to note that both AEIs and placement providers should carefully risk assess students to ensure that those at higher risk are properly protected. Nursing students need to feel protected when going onto clinical placements during COVID-19. Therefore, it is important that all nursing students have access to life assurance (often called death in service) benefits should they die as a result of exposure to COVID-19 whilst on clinical placement.

Students on paid placements may also join the NHS Pension Scheme, which provides additional death in service benefits.

For more information please see:

This provision is time limited. It has been announced that the English scheme will close for work related COVID-19 deaths that occur after 24 March 2022. The other countries have yet to confirm the date their schemes will close.

We expect employers, universities and, in Scotland, further education colleges, to work closely with the affected students’ families following any student death. 

For tips and helpful information on successful distance learning and self-isolation for international students in the UK, see:

Tips for Successful Distance Learning During COVID-19
Coronavirus Information for UK International Students

In specific geographical areas, UK governments and devolved administrations have applied localised restrictions in response to increases in COVID-19 cases. You can find an up to date list of areas subject to additional restrictions in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.  

It is the responsibility of the educational provider to organise suitable clinical placements for their students, working in partnership with the practice learning partner in accordance with NMC standards in the event of local lockdown. 

It is the responsibility of the education provider to undertake robust risk assessments to protect students on placement. 

If you have any concerns, in the first instance you should raise them with your practice supervisor or assessor, or your university tutor. If you are still concerned and haven’t been able to resolve the issue please contact us

Please see our guidance COVID-19 and mandatory vaccination

It is the responsibility of the educational provider to ensure that students complete the required number of practice hours. The NMC currently allows 600 hours of alternative simulated practice to count towards practice hours. For more information, please see the NMC's continued use of recovery standards.

If you have any concerns, in the first instance you should raise them with your practice supervisor or assessor, or your university tutor. If you are still concerned and haven’t been able to resolve the issue please contact us

What support will I get in practice? 

Your educational provider is responsible for offering you a suitable placement which will take into account your knowledge and experience around the environment you are asked to work in. Once on placement you must discuss your assessment of competence and confidence with your practice supervisor and assessor. 

Students should work to the NMC code of conduct, preserving safety at all times. Students will remain accountable for the care that they provide. It is essential that students only undertake care that they feel they are competent and confident to carry out. Each educational provider should also provide their own raising and escalating concerns guidance to students. 

If you have any concerns, in the first instance you should raise them with your practice supervisor or assessor, or your university tutor. If you are still concerned and haven’t been able to resolve the issue please contact us

Safety on whilst on placement 

Any educational practice must take place in line with the country-specific guidance at that exact time. Full risk assessments should be undertaken in advance and mitigations made in order to ensure that the government guidance is addressed. It is your responsibility to ensure that you understand and are able to comply with the risk assessment and mitigation prior to commencing any activity.  

Mitigation may include the use of personal protective equipment (PPE). For more information please read our advice guide on PPE. Further information can also be found in the country-specific guidance on PPE.

Mitigation may also include testing for COVID-19 infection. This should be delivered in accordance with local infection prevention and control policies. 

If you have any concerns, in the first instance you should raise them with your practice supervisor or assessor, or your university tutor. If you are still concerned and haven’t been able to resolve the issue please contact us

The Omicron variant of COVID-19 has resulted in a sudden escalation of cases across the UK.  The UK Government and devolved administrations have agreed that the COVID-19 vaccination booster will be rolled out to all eligible people in the UK by the end of 2021. This is expected to put additional pressure on the NHS and other health care providers.
 
Nursing and midwifery students may have practice placements within vaccination teams however these must be in accordance NMC guidance and students should not be used to fill in gaps in a vaccinator capacity.

Nursing and midwifery students may also be asked to contribute towards vaccination programmes outside their educational course. This may be in a paid role as a support worker or in an unpaid voluntary role.  

The RCN remains clear that during the COVID-19 pandemic, all students must be adequately supported to complete their academic studies and meet the NMC requirements relating to clinical practice hours taking cognisance of their individual circumstances. The RCN advises that students also prioritise their health and wellbeing.

If however a student member has the capacity, and agrees to contribute in either a paid or voluntary role, they will be entitled to a range of RCN services that might be of relevance to the role.   

Please also see the section below Part time working and volunteering, for further guidance on this for students across the UK.

England

The Omicron Emergency Boost initiative in England, aims to fast-track the delivery of COVID-19 booster vaccinations. Universities have been contacted by the Department of Education, asking for support for this programme from clinical staff and student volunteers.
  
Health Education England are asking students to consider registering with the bank to take up paid opportunities in support of the vaccination programme. 

You must only work within the scope of your competence and only undertake clinical tasks for which you feel confident and competent. This is separate from programmes of study or placement. 

Northern Ireland 

Nursing and midwifery students have been asked to participate in the booster programme outside their education programme. Training will be provided by Public Health Agency (NI) and participants will be paid at a band 4.

The RCN advice is that students must only work within their scope of competence. You should only undertake clinical tasks for which you feel confident and competent. This is separate from programmes of study or placement.

Scotland 

Health care students including nursing and midwifery students can apply to register with their local NHS Board Bank. There is availability of three or six-month part-time paid employment with NHS Boards with potential employment via staff banks in acute, mental health and community settings. 

The RCN advice is that students must only work within their scope of  competence. You should only undertake clinical tasks for which you feel confident and competent. This is separate from programmes of study or placement.

Wales 

Health care students in Wales, including nursing and midwifery students outside of their education programme, can apply to their local NHS Bank. 

In addition, there is a NHS Wales Covid-19 volunteer vaccination programme.

The RCN advice is that students must only work within their scope of competence. You should only undertake clinical tasks for which you feel confident and competent. This is separate from programmes of study or placement.

You will continue with your studies as planned and continue to have supernumerary status when on clinical placement.
 
It remains the responsibility of the AEI to ensure you have met all of your learning outcomes and necessary requirements to complete your programme and join the NMC register.
 
Read more about clinical placement expansion on Health Education England's work to expand placement opportunities. 

Scotland

In Scotland, 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 has confirmed the option of part time paid employment is available to healthcare students – this is separate from programmes of study or placement. For more information please see Information for student nurses in Scotland.

Wales

In Wales, at the current time there are no changes to the way your theoretical and practice learning is organised other than the same person fulfilling the role of practice supervisor and assessor. Your practice learning should continue as planned. Our priority is the timely registration of final year students, and we want you to retain your supernumerary status on placement. We will keep this position under continuous review. Therefore student nurses in Wales will not be invited to join the temporary register.

Northern Ireland

In Northern Ireland final year students will not currently be offered the option of an extended paid clinical placement.

Organisations must have effective procedures in place to allow nursing staff - including students - and their representatives to raise any concerns in relation to equipment, policies and processes for managing COVID-19 at the earliest opportunity. This could include concerns relating to in relation to unsustainable pressures in the workplace as well as equipment, policies and processes for managing COVID-19.


Students should feel able to raise concerns without detriment and should receive timely feedback on their concerns. If your concerns remain unresolved, refer to:

and speak to your supervisor/tutor as soon as possible.

If you have followed these steps and the issue is still not resolved, please contact us

Reasonable adjustments are an entitlement under law and should not be affected by changes to your education in response to COVID-19. Ensure that your needs are known by your university and take a proactive approach in sharing your inclusion plan with your Placement Education Facilitator or other placement contact as early as you’re able to.

If you are having issues in establishing or sustaining the adjustments you need, in the first instance consult your university's disability support team, RCN members can also contact us.  

Please see the 'self-isolation: exposure and symptoms' section of our COVID-19 and time off guidance for more information. 

All students will receive support, supervision and assessment in the usual way and in accordance with part 2: Standards for student supervision and assessment

Unsustainable pressures

The COVID-19 pandemic has intensified existing pressures on staffing and resources in all health and care settings.

This resource has been designed to support members in delivering safe and effective care and with the difficult decisions they make every day.

Student Money Guide

Providing helpful advice on funding, bursaries, benefits and housing as well as tips on saving money and budgeting.

Winter wellbeing

Protecting yourself and your patients is vitally important this winter

Page last updated - 21/01/2022