New pandemic lessons for nurse students

December 1, 2021

Nursing students will be able to use their experiences of COVID-19-related practice such as swabbing, vaccination and contact-tracing as part of their clinical learning, under proposed new nursing standards from the Nursing Council.

Nursing Council chief executive Catherine Byrne said the proposed changes to nursing education standards included pandemic-related practice, to help schools provide training in what was an emergency situation. It would also allow students to contribute while allowing their experiences to be part of their clinical learning.

“Given the emergency situation and rapid response required, nursing students can learn along with contributing to meeting this urgent need, [and] paid employment could be considered in this situation.”

NZNO national student unit (NSU) leaders Jade Power and Waiharakeke Biddle said students supported the changes, as a “vital way for nursing students across Aotearoa to gain their required clinical hours if they have been affected by COVID-19”.

But students working as health-care assistants in COVID red zones such as emergency departments, intensive care units and COVID wards should also benefit from the standards, NSU said. Currently, the standards only included students doing contact-tracing, case management, swabbing and testing.

NSU also sought reassurance in a meeting with the Nursing Council that students would be well-supported on placement and looked after adequately if they caught COVID-19.

They also wanted to ensure students be protected from workplace pressures “as under these standards, the students’ workplace now becomes a clinical learning environment”.

The supplementary registered nurse education programme standards (2021) should only be used when “normal” accredited clinical learning placements were disrupted due to pandemic restrictions, the Nursing Council states. Consultation ended on December 13.

NZNO research has found COVID-19 significantly disrupted students’ clinical placements. Of 700 students surveyed in April/May, 83 per cent reported problems with their clinical placements – including 40 per cent who said the impact was major due to dropped, fewer or shorter placements.