COVID-19: Important information for nursing students

UNISON has negotiated an agreement to enable nursing students to help NHS colleagues deal with the challenge of COVID-19.

We know many of you want to use the considerable skills and knowledge you have gained in your studies, to help the NHS deal with this emergency.

We negotiated the agreement in partnership with the Royal College of Nursing and Unite, as the trade unions representing nursing students.

The agreements we have negotiated means those of you who are more experienced students will be able to help where you can, be paid and have this work count towards your learning.

We have also been given assurances that longer-term learning is protected and you will be given adequate time and support to reach your full potential once this emergency has passed.

Key information

  • These measures are voluntary. Because the clinical context has changed some of you may not wish to go into placement or possibly will need to be at home caring for family. This is ok and universities will do their best to support you in those circumstances.
  • You will be entitled to all the same protections and support as NHS staff. If you do go into practice you are providing a helpful service and should be supported by your colleagues.
  • You are always entitled to supervision and will work within a delegated framework. The NMC has acknowledged these are emergency conditions and will take account of these circumstances in any issue that may arise.
  • You will not be rushed to join the full NMC register until you are ready. Assurances have been given that you will be able to ask for further protected time and learning once the emergency has passed if you need it – without being disadvantaged for doing so.
  • UNISON will stand with you. You can raise concerns to us at any time and we will do our best to support you.

Emergency arrangements for nursing students

We have come to these arrangements after lengthy discussions at a national level. We appreciate you may still have questions about your studies and we are expecting more detailed information to come from each nation of the UK. Please seek information and support from your university and local NHS providers in the first instance.

UNISON Reps and branches will support you as needed.

Specifics for each stage of learning:

First year students

To protect the learning of nursing students in their first year, clinical placements may be suspended. You can continue academic work and modules during this year.

Your institutions will seek to enable you to make up hours in clinical practice over the course of your studies once the emergency has passed. They, and the NMC, will take account of this disruption on your studies and seek flexibly to support your learning.

Second year/first part of third year/postgraduate

Your learning will be changed to 80% of time in clinical practice and 20% in structured, regular academic learning in contact with your university and instructors. You cannot have supernumerary status in placement during the emergency.

If you choose to go onto placement during the emergency you will be expected to be supervised and work within a delegated framework appropriate for your stage of training. You will be paid for this time under arrangements to be negotiated in your nation. Your time will count towards your clinical hours learning in placement.

Universities will continue coordinating placements with local provider organisations, specific to your field of practice. If you decide you do not want to go into clinical placement under these conditions you may continue with your academic work with your colleagues or you may take an authorised break from your studies.

The NMC and your universities will be flexible to allow you to continue your studies if you meet the academic requirements and you will be supported to make up the placement hours when possible once the emergency has passed.

It is currently envisaged that the final part of your studies prior to your qualification for the full NMC register will return to normal. If, as a result of the disruption to your studies, you feel you need further supported time in practice or learning you will be able to request this and should not be financially disadvantaged for doing so.

Students in the final six months of their studies

The NMC is introducing emergency standards so you can spend the last six months of your studies in clinical placements. You cannot have supernumerary status in placement during the emergency. If you choose to continue your placements during the emergency, you will be expected to be supervised and work within a delegated framework appropriate for your stage of training.

Students in their final six months who decide to go onto their placements

You will be paid for this time under arrangements to be negotiated in your nation. Your time will count towards your hours learning in placement. Universities will continue coordinating placements with local provider organisations, specific to your field of practice.

Universities will continue to follow their normal process of signing students off onto the full NMC register, assessing your clinical practice and academic progress.

You will be under no pressure to join the full register. It has been agreed that, once the emergency has passed, if you feel you need further supernumerary time in placement or time in university before joining the full register, you can request this. You should not be financially disadvantaged for doing so.

Students in their last six months who decide not to continue with their placements

If you decide you do not wish to go into clinical placement under these conditions you will need to discuss your options with your university. It may be that you can continue with academic work but the completion of your degree might be delayed. You should not be financially disadvantaged.

Student finances

We recognise that you will have concerns about your income and finances during this period. Commitments have been given that no student will suffer financial disadvantage as a result of their choices during this time. Levels of pay are being determined in each nation of the UK and you should receive more information from the Chief Nursing Officer of your nation soon.

Students in England currently pay tuition fees for courses. We recognise that you are being called on to provide support during this emergency and we are calling for your tuition fees to be abolished.

Student UNISON subscriptions

We recognise that many of you, although you remain students, will be paid for your work in the coming months. Nursing students can stay on the UNISON student rate of £10 a year over this period and we will continue to represent you and offer our full support during this time.

Once you enter the NMC register as a fully qualified nurse you will then be expected to start paying the appropriate subscription level to remain a member of UNISON.

Click here for the union statement setting out the changes

More information from the Nursing and Midwifery Council