Many members of our nursing family are understandably concerned about the circumstances in which you may be working during the response to COVID-19.
NMC regulation during the pandemic
The Nursing and Midwifery Council have acknowledged this is the case and have published a statement with other regulators about how they will continue to regulate during the response to COVID-19.
Though the NMC Code stipulates registrants must recognise and work within their own levels of competency it also recognises that at times nurses may have to work in emergency conditions and provides flexibility for this.
Registrants must continue throughout this emergency to exercise professional judgement and communicate with your colleagues and patients honestly and transparently.
Some of you will be working under difficult conditions and may be asked to operate in unfamiliar ways in which you are not comfortable.
The NMC has acknowledged that during this emergency you may be asked to care for patients in ways that depart from normal established procedures and has stated that – ‘Where a concern is raised about a registered professional, it will always be considered on the specific facts of the case, taking into account the factors relevant to the situation in which the professional is working’.
Support and representation for registrants is important. UNISON has a dedicated Professional Services Unit that provides specialist advise and representation in all regulatory cases and members of our nursing family are entitled to support in any issue that may arise with their regulator.
More information about how the NMC is regulating professionals through this period and FAQs
NMC guidance on PPE
The NMC has also issued specific guidance for registrants around the issue of PPE and decision making on treatment.
This guidance acknowledges that registrants may on occasion have to make difficult decisions around patient care in the absence of appropriate PPE.
The NMC recognise that you have to take account of your own safety, that of others and the possibility of providing care in different ways when making these decisions.
The guidance lists relevant factors you should take account of in your decision making and reiterates the important of using your professional judgement and maintaining accurate records of your decision making.
We have been vocal and firm with the government, the NHS and other employers in health and social care to get clear guidance and supplies to all health and care staff.
We will continue applying this pressure throughout this pandemic to endeavour to ensure every worker in health and social care gets the protection needed.
Student / learners support
The COVID-19 pandemic means we are in unprecedented times with significant pressures being placed upon our health and care services.
In order to build greater capacity, the NMC have created a temporary register which allows recently retired staff (within the last 5 years) and overseas nurses awaiting their OSCEs to join the workforce. A specific section for student nurses in their final 6 months of training may be opened in time if pressures require it.
You may already have retired staff who have returned to practice in your workplace and shortly, students who have not yet fully qualified will follow them.
The NMC have now announced they will not be opening this temporary register to any student nurses.
Students who are not yet qualified – Final Year Students
The agreement by all stakeholders will allow for final year students in the last 6 months of their studies to join the workforce early by opting into ‘paid’ clinical placements.
Some students have already started joining the workforce and should be working on within a delegated framework.
Though still formally students, they will not be supernumerary but will be supervised and work within a delegated framework that will be agreed by the student, university and employer.
Students in the second year of study
These students will have the option of taking a revised programme which will mean that up to 80% of their time can be spent in clinical practice with a remaining 20% in academic study e.g. Monday-Thursday in clinical practice and Friday for academic study.
They will also not be supernumerary but again will be supervised and work within a delegated framework that will be agreed by the student, university and employer.
They will be joining the temporary register with the specific conditions of practice in the same way as final year student nurses. They will also require supervision from a fully registered nurse.
Once the emergency concludes, the register will be closed.
What this means for you
All the students who will be joining the workforce early and without having qualified will have done so on an opt-in, voluntary basis.
Where students are undertaking paid placements they will not be supernumerary but are still entitled to supervision, protected learning time, and to count their hours towards their learning. As a healthcare support worker or registered nurse you should continue to offer supervision as much as possible as you would to students normally.
We know that all of our members are working incredibly hard right now to provide care to those in need but ask where possible to:
- Support students where you can – they are not yet formally qualified and starting their career at a difficult time.
- Ensure they work within their framework and level of competency – very occasionally some students may be too eager to help and may find themselves working out of their scope
- Enable their learning where possible – we recognise many of you will be unable to offer normal levels of support and protected time with students during this emergency, which is why the NMC has introduced these emergency standards. However, these are still learning experiences for students and where you can teach and offer learning this will be very helpful.
- Help them integrate – starting a new job is nerve-wracking at the best of times. Anything you can do to help students integrate, feel part of the team and feel supported will be incredibly important to them in the formative stages of their practice.
- Help re-integrate and support those who have come out of retirement to help. Some will not have practiced for some period of time and may need support in getting up to speed with the changes that have taken place since they retired. They may also be deployed in an unfamiliar setting. Any support you can offer will be positive.
Temporary register for overseas nurses
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) has opened a temporary emergency register to enable nurses from overseas to work during the crisis. UNISON helped negotiate these agreements with the NMC and has produced guidance for nurses who are thinking of joining the temporary register.
The guidance covers where you can work, your rate of pay and outlines the support and advice UNISON offers to members joining the temporary register.