What Is Happening to Student Nurses in England?
Many of England's nursing students who left the classroom early and went into the workforce to fill COVID-19 jobs in the face of the pandemic are finding their contracts terminated early. Here, we'll give you a rundown of the government deployment of student nurses to the workforce in England, what was expected, and how it's turning out for them now.
When COVID-19 hit England earlier this year, the concern about nursing shortages became a front and center conversation. The reality that the pandemic could overwhelm England's medical facilities and staff became a problem that needed a solution, and fast.
So, in March, the Head of National Health Service (NHS) Sir Simon Stevens announced that England would be calling for help from the country's third-year undergraduate nursing students, offering to register them for work six months early. This was extended as an invitation, meaning it was optional. They were offered salaries, and told when the pandemic was over they would still be expected to complete final assessments and classes.
A "Student support guidance during COVID-19 Outbreak" was developed and can be found here. According to the guidebook, the nursing students were told if they accepted the invitation to enter the workforce for the purpose of helping with the pandemic that their loans would not be affected by any of their earnings, nor by the fact that they were not actively taking classes. They would be registered on a temporary basis and that the fee for registering would be waved.
It was not clear exactly how long the nursing students could expect their work contracts to be for, it would vary depending on employer. Many students did sign six-month work contracts. This was seemingly a good opportunity for student nurses, as part of their third year they are required to complete 2,300 clinical practices hours that is under normal circumstances unpaid. Responses of student nurses were a mix of emotions. Some reported being very excited but also nervous. Others were very concerned about the increased risk of contracting the virus and then bringing it home to their loved ones. And yet others confident and ready.
18,000 nursing students were initially extended this invitation, and about 30,000 were actually deployed. Now three months later as the economic impact takes a brutal toll on most countries’ economies, we take a look at what is happening to those nursing students.
What is Happening Now
The beginning of the month of June saw considerable progress on the COVID 19 front for England. As things seemed to calm down, and some socializing with distance began again, and businesses reopening some nursing students were told their contracts would terminate at the end of June.
There was a lot of speculation and many student nurses took to their social media accounts to vent their uncertainty, and anger. Some student nurses are parents and have families to provide for, they left other paying jobs to take part of the emergency COVID response with the expectation they would have a six month salary. Now, before six months is up, all student nursing contracts will be terminated. The nurses feeling cast aside and underappreciated were vocal enough that the Health Education England (HEE) responded in an official manner.
On June 17, 2020, the head of HEE Mark Radford issued a press release:
"Year 3 students will be paid till 31st of July and if they have completed hours and assessments can qualify and be paid as a full registered nurses. They will move from Band 4 to Band 5 and therefore increase their pay. Any Year 3 student who has hours to complete will be paid until September to allow them to do this. Any year 2 students on placement till July 31st will be paid and after this normal non-paid placements will be re-introduced along with Year 1 students. We committed at the outset of the pandemic to ensure that these students complete their training and are able to qualify. It was always made clear to students who opted into paid placements the arrangements would need to come to an end at an appropriate point so that students could return to their supernumerary status to complete their registered nursing qualifications as quickly as possible to permanently enter the NHS workforce."
U.S. Nursing Students Often Work as CNAs to Fill COVID-19 Jobs
Nursing students in the U.S. didn't get a formal invitation to join the workforce to battle the pandemic, but that doesn't mean they weren't doing it. Many nursing students across the United States work as CNAs for income while studying. CNA's are employed most often in hospitals and long term care facilities. So, while the government didn't ask nursing students to join the fight, you can be sure that many of them were doing it anyway, all while doing their studies.
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